NEW special section: ToxicDocs: Opening a new era of evidence for policies to protect public health (Guest Edited by David Rosner, Gerald Markowitz and Merlin Chowkwanyun)

How have toxic chemicals been developed and used by industry and how have communities been affected? All the players and all the chemicals can be found by searching - a website that is the subject of a special section in the current issue of JPHP that describes the history, the operation, and the anticipated global utility of ToxicDocs to journalists, researchers, community groups, unions, and many others.

Guest Edited by public health historians who have became expert witnesses in landmark litigation, the ToxicDocs special section is free to view for all.

Read the articles here.

What is ToxicDocs? The new website is already home to twenty million pages of documents, with more to be posted in the future. They have been gleaned from many sources–public archives and private communications that have become open to the public in lawsuit “discovery.” And now this collection can be searched by anyone–and it will remain open to all, free of charge.

Two public health historians–David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz– started the ToxicDocs project and have been joined by Merlin Chowkwanyun, their ‘big data’ savvy colleague. In the 1970s, they were studying the damaging health effects of the gasoline additive, tetraethyl lead and how it was added to gasoline without full understanding of the lead poisoning it would cause. They went on to study lead in paint, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos, and other toxic agents. They were often called in to examine documents that plaintiffs’ lawyers obtained through discovery. And they did it the slow way, by hand. These public health historians became expert witnesses in landmark litigation.

Because many researchers, investigative reporters, and public health practitioners and policy makers have worked with David, Jerry, and Merlin, it was possible to assemble a group of comments that begin to discuss how ToxicDocs can and will be an important public health tool around the world. The special section includes contributions from Stéphane Horel of LeMonde, Jock McCullogh, US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Robert Proctor, Elena Naumova, and Nick Freudenberg.


JPHP #Wordban Winners announced!

The Editors of JPHP would like to thank everybody who contributed to the recent #Wordban competition and are delighted to announce the winners! We have listed some of our favourites below, but please head to the JPHP Facebook page to see the full conversation about the competition and to see all of the winners!

A taster of the winning entries…


As the mother of a 29-week old fetus, I strongly condemn the current attacks on evidence-based approaches to science and health – I want my child to grow up in a world were diversity is valued, and vulnerable groups (such as the transgender community) have an entitlement to have their health needs met in a supportive and science-based way.

Caitlin Saunders, Tasmania, Australia


I believe in diversity, the entitlement of minority and vulnerable citizens, such as transgender individuals, to equal treatment, the rights of a mother over a fetus, and the reliance on science-based evidence-based information to guide my beliefs and decisions.

Rhoda Winer, Boston, Massachusetts, USA


Vulnerable to temperature regarding sex selection, the embryo (a fetus in live-birth species) of the Olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) shows a statistical science-based predilection for transgender fluctuations relative to egg temperature; evidence-based gender entitlement devolves to the female as sand and water temperatures rise and diversity declines.

Carla Coach, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

From the Editors…

We thank all of you who contributed contest sentences (130 of them from about 10 countries on 4 continents) and the several thousand more of you who cheered on all the participants–on the JPHP Facebook or by writing to us. All this occurred in the week after the 15 December 2017 story about the banning of the words appeared in the Washington Post:

What were the banned words? Here they are: “vulnerable”, “entitlement”, “diversity”, “transgender”, “fetus”, “evidence-based”, and “science based”—and we challenged readers to a contest of combining all of them in a single sentence. (For more on the contest, see the postings on the Facebook page of the Journal of Public Health Policy.)

Working from a master list of the contest sentence submissions that included no identifying information about the authors, the six judges first identified about 20 favorites among the 130 entries, then selected the top 6 favorites as WINNERS.

The six contest judges all have had considerable involvement with CDC in some way, and two were former high ranking CDC officials. All are living in the USA now. Two, both in scientific fields related to public health, were born about 7000 miles from their current US cities of residence; their cities of birth are about 4000 miles apart. There are other marks of diversity in the group…4 women, 2 men; 3 different mother tongues; 2 MDs, 2 PhDs, 2 JDs. Eye, hair and skin tones range from pale pink to rich brown. Sense of humor appears to be shared. The judges used no objective criteria nor scientific method, just instinct. They were impressed that so many authors could make such sense out of nonsense.

It is striking that most of the entries were heartfelt, neither comic nor sarcastic. Some expressed anger, some passion, others trepidation. Many thanked us for the outlet for whatever emotion the ‘7 banned words’ incident provoked. We thank all of you!

Phyllis Freeman & Anthony Robbins, Co-Editors, Journal of Public Health Policy

Recent Highlights

The challenge of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in India

Two JPHP articles highlight the multiple and complex challenges of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), articulated by three important voices from the field. The Review Article 'Management and control of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB): Addressing policy needs for India', by Sachin Atre and Megan Murray, carefully reviews studies on the prevalence of MDR-TB published between 2001 and 2016 and offers suggestions for policymakers and program planners to improve the management and control of the disease in India.

In an accompanying Commentary, Barry Bloom reflects on Atre and Murray's paper in his article 'Rethinking how to address the world’s largest infectious killer in the world’s largest country'. Recognising TB as 'more than an infectious disease; it is a major challenge to health systems', Bloom acknowledges the important contribution Atre and Murray have made, as their paper 'reveals that many of the problems in controlling TB are less a consequence of the virulence of the pathogen than of the complexity and weaknesses of India's health system'. Bloom echoes the policy suggestions outlined by Atre and Murray, framing them as 'only too reasonable'.

Together, the two articles are an important call for action in the quest to tackle MDR-TB in India more effectively.

Read Atre and Murray's Review Article here

Read Barry Blooms' Commentary here

JPHP in the News

The Journal of Public Health Policy has a tradition of airing controversy and framing policy debates and some recent articles in the media reflect its commitment to addressing issues dominating today's headlines.

Recent articles in the news have included...

Local Reaction To CDC Reported Word Ban, NBC Boston

State laws, syringe exchange, and HIV among persons who inject drugs in the United States: History and effectiveness
By Heidi Bramson, Don C Des Jarlais, Kamyar Arasteh, et al.

Featured in The Huffington Post and NPR Shots

Gun utopias? Firearm access and ownership in Israel and Switzerland
By Janet E Rosenbaum

Featured in The Guardian

The need to include animal protection in public health policies
By Aysha Akhtar

Featured in The Guardian