Jim Brophy and Margaret Keith have studied occupational and environmental health, specifically the links between cancer risk and occupation, for more than three decades. They are the former executive director and former research coordinator, respectively, of the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) of Sarnia-Lambton, and are currently adjunct professors at the University of Windsor. Their research, advocacy and publishing activities are extensive, helping us to better understand how hazardous substances are affecting the health and well-being of women and men working in industrial and other settings.
In 2012, UBC Press will publish Consuming Chemicals: Law, Science and Policy for Women's Health, edited by D.N. Scott. Much of the material used in this article is drawn from the chapter entitled “Plastics Industry Workers and Breast Cancer Risk: Are We Heeding the Warnings?” written by Brophy, Keith, and fellow researchers Robert DeMatteo, Michael Gilbertson, Andrew Watterson and Matthias Beck. As well, Brophy and Keith have teamed up with the National Network on Environments and Women’s Health (NNEWH), a Canadian projects-based research centre, to complete and disseminate their work. Quotations are drawn from a recent interview with Brophy and Keith and their work with a NNEWH-funded focus group study.
Keith and Brophy’s earlier research suggests that women working in the areas of automotive manufacturing, farming and health care are experiencing increased rates of breast cancer—in some cases more than triple the risk. But the scientific and medical communities have shown too little interest to definitively link the disease with occupational hazards, despite these and other earlier studies.