Phil Brown, Northeastern University

Phil Brown


Director of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute, University Distinguished Professor

Public Health and Health Sciences

Research Interests

Environmental health, environmental justice, health social movements, reporting back chemical exposures to participants flame retardants, per- and polyfluorinated compounds (PFAS)


Phil Brown is University Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Health Science, and directs the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute. He is the author of No Safe Place: Toxic Waste, Leukemia, and Community Action, and Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement, and co-editor of Social Movements in Health, and Contested Illnesses: Citizens, Science and Health Social Movements. He studies biomonitoring and household exposure and reporting back data to participants, flame retardants, perfluorinated compounds (, and health social movements. He directs an NIEHS T-32 training program, “Transdisciplinary Training at the Intersection of Environmental Health and Social Science.” He co-directs the Community Outreach and Translation Core of Northeastern’s Children’s Environmental Health Center (CRECE) and directs the Research Translation Core and co-directs the Community Engagement Core of Northeastern’s Superfund Research Program (PROTECT).  He is on the National Advisory Environmental Health Science Council, which advises the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Recent Publications

Holli Levitsky and Phil Brown (eds.), Summer Haven: The Catskills, the Holocaust, and the Literary Imagination. 2015, Academic Studies Press.

Phil Brown, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Stephen Zavestoski, and the Contested Illnesses Research Group, Contested Illnesses: Citizens, Science and Health Social Movements (2012, University of California Press).

Phil Brown, Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement (2007, Columbia University Press).

PFAS Project: Multi-faceted lab group studying per- and polyfluorinated compounds through two NSF and two National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences grants. Includes biomonitoring study of immunotoxic effects on children’s vaccinations; water testing; study of community activism; creating maps and databases of contamination sites; national conferences; ethnographic studies.

Environmental Data and Governance Initiative: Founding member and Steering Committee Member. This 180-person organization analyzes federal environmental data, websites, institutions, and policy through: 1)archiving vulnerable environmental data, 2) monitoring changes to information about the environment, energy, and climate on federal websites, 3) interviewing federal employees about threats and changes to environmental health agencies, 4) publishing in academic journals, white papers,  and mass media, and 5) imagining, conceptualizing, and moving toward Environmental Data Justice.

Community Service

  • Member of National Advisory Environmental Health Council (NIEHS Council
  • Member of Advisory Committee for Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (modeled after the National Academies) in its role to support the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environment in developing a program on emerging contaminants.
  • Director, Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute: The mission of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute is to conduct social science-oriented research, teaching, community engagement, and policy work in the area of environmental health.


PFAS Chemicals Lab Group website
Please visit Phil Brown’s personal website for full details on research and publications