Women and Water: An Analysis of RCA Health Effect Studies from a Feminist Perspective
Yi-Ping Lin( Center of Health Risk Assessment and Policy College of Public Health National Taiwan University)
In 1994, the RCA (Radio Company of America) factory in Taiwan was impeached for polluting groundwater with trichloroethane (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), and other industrial solvents. Subsequently, former RCA workers, who had been diagnosed with cancer, began to
organize themselves in order to voice their concerns with the origins of their health troubles: potential exposure to environmental and occupational hazards. In 1998, the government responded by initiating research in public health, which has since generated six published studies: an animal study, environmental health risk assessment study, environmental epidemiological study and occupational epidemiological research. However, these health studies did not sufficiently verify correlation between industrial pollution and health. They have also sparked some controversies. Employing a gender analysis method, this paper examines gender variables presented in the released RCA research and aims to ascertain why, under the existing public health research paradigm, it has proven so problematical to establish a relationship between occupational and
environmental pollution, and women’s health.
This paper concludes that the RCA studies neglected in their data analyses to take into account women’s social or biological features with a male environment and occupational medicine paradigm. For instance, the environmental health risk assessments underestimated female residents’ exposure to pollutants caused by their contact with certain chemicals during their house chores. In the environmental epidemiological study, the “lost for follow-up” group was much more predominant due to the custom of patrilocal residence. In a series of occupational epidemiological studies, the researchers further failed to acknowledge any critical exposure during girls’ puberty.
By analyzing the research of the epidemiology , this paper further emphasizes that the researches will be more valid while employing a feminist viewpoint, “thinking from women’s lives” and taking female social and biological features into account. To protect the health of women in Taiwan the academia needs to support more women’s health studies and strive to establish a new feminist epidemiology paradigm.
industrial pollution, epidemiology, women’s health,Feminism