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Science Philosophy & Social Aspects

Pain and Prejudice

What Science Can Learn about Work from the People Who Do It

by (author) Karen Messing

Between the Lines
Initial publish date
Aug 2014
Philosophy & Social Aspects, Occupational & Industrial Medicine, Disease & Health Issues, Labor & Industrial Relations
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2014
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2014
    List Price

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In 1978, when workers at a nearby phosphate refinery learned that the ore they processed was contaminated with radioactive dust, Karen Messing, then a new professor of molecular genetics, was called in to help. Unsure of what to do with her discovery that exposure to the radiation was harming the workers and their families, Messing contacted senior colleagues but they wouldn’t help. Neither the refinery company nor the scientific community was interested in the scary results of her chromosome studies.

Over the next decades Messing encountered many more cases of workers around the world—factory workers, cleaners, checkout clerks, bank tellers, food servers, nurses, teachers—suffering and in pain without any help from the very scientists and occupational health experts whose work was supposed to make their lives easier. Arguing that rules for scientific practice can make it hard to see what really makes workers sick, in Pain and Prejudice Messing tells the story of how she went from looking at test tubes to listening to workers.

About the author


Karen Messing is an award-winning (including a Governor General of Canada award and YWCA (Montreal) Women of Distinction) and internationally recognized expert on occupational health. She is the author of more than 130 peer-reviewed scientific articles and the book One-eyed Science: Occupational Health and Working Women. She is also the editor of Integrating Gender in Ergonomic Analysis, which has been translated into six languages.


Karen Messing's profile page


  • Short-listed, Science in Society Book Award

Editorial Reviews

Pain and Prejudice: What Science Can Learn about Work from the People Who Do It, is a must read on this theme of the obstacles to science being effective in addressing workplace issues.

New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy

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