Most environmental health issues involve a variety of elements with overlapping or distinct causes, stakeholder groups, and solutions. Selecting an important, specific element of the issue is essential when formulating realistic ways to address and improve the environmental issue. This specific aspect of the issue is known as the problem and can be defined in a concise problem statement. The problem statement includes the purpose of the problem-solving effort, defines its scope, and states the specific objective of the problem-solving effort in the form of a question.
The three elements of the statement are—explaining how things should be; identifying a significant gap; and asking a question about one major way to improve the current situation. For example:
- The food you purchase should be free from levels of pesticide residues that are hazardous to human health, but many commercially used pesticides have not been tested using newer techniques to detect harm that they may cause during prenatal development or childhood. Should the EPA require that pesticides used on food crops be reevaluated using the new tests to ensure that children are fully protected, and if so, which tests?
- Employees who work with lead have a right to expect that their health will be protected if their workplace adheres to the OSHA lead standard, but the OSHA lead standard has not been updated since 1978, despite a great deal of new epidemiologic and toxicologic research about lead toxicity. Should the OSHA lead standard be revised, and if so, what should the new provisions be?
- Consumers often trust that products and services that they purchase are safe unless they are advised otherwise. Recently, nail salons have been the focus of worker safety initiatives because they use hazardous chemicals such as methacrylates, acetates, toluene, and formaldehydes. Are consumers adequately protected from hazardous chemicals when they receive services in nail salons?
The process of developing a problem statement is extremely useful because you will choose a defined focus, which will guide the rest of the work leading to a proposed solution to the problem.
For this assignment:
- Choose a specific aspect of the topic that you selected last week as your problem.
- Define the environmental or occupational problem affecting human populations that you will analyze for your final project.
- Write your problem statement in 2–3 sentences in a Microsoft Word document. These sentences should be questions that you intend to explore in your research paper.
- Justify, in 3 to 5 double-spaced pages, why you chose to focus your analysis of this multifaceted issue to the specific problem as stated in your problem statement.