Keywords: bioethics, environmental inequities, natural systems, social systems, polymorphisms, genetic susceptibility, vulnerability, environmental ethics, toxic substances, exposure, human health, health risks
Bioethical issues: Environmental ethics between natural and social systems
The recent identification of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) and their correlation with the modulation of enzyme activity in human genes has further crystallised the links between factors implicated in individual susceptibility and exposure to toxic substances in the environment. The frequently evident opposition between causal interpretations based either on genetic heritage or on external environmental factors serves to focus attention on the possibility that the triumph of 'constitutionalist' views may reject the more complex and costly primary prevention measures to deal with pollution. In ethical terms, the clash between the genetic susceptibility of certain population groups and the vulnerability of the 'human condition' bound up with our interdependence on the environment requires that we overcome the prevailing opinion that holds exposure to toxic substances to be 'normal'. The supposed 'congenital deficit' of some subjects or disorders linked to age, health condition or lifestyles fails to recognise that the risks to human health affect every single person, without exception.