Have you ever noticed how warning labels on some medication have a precautionary warning for certain groups of people? In some cases, the biomedical research community uses race in an exclusive manner. Joseph L. Graves, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Biological Studies at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, argues in his The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of the Millennium, that such warning labels should be addressed to everybody instead of limiting advice to “special populations”, namely minorities, women, and the disabled.
Such an approach stems from the confusion between ethnic groups and biological variation. This confusion Graves addresses has clouded the ability to give equal medical care to all groups. The fact is that specialists committed to providing the best medical care can benefit from knowing what groups are at great risk for disease, such as cardiac catheterization Florida specialists, who are committed to excellence in care. However, race may not be the best way to determine risk for diseases such as heart disease.
An important component of genetics that cannot be considered by racial categorization is the contribution of the environment. Both the genotype of an individual and the forces of the environment influence the expression of a particular phenotype in an individual. Grave points out that in the United States minority populations are often forced to live in environments contaminated by toxic material, referencing a study performed in 1992 that found racial composition is correlated to the location of hazardous waste facilities in the United States.
Toxins such as lead have been shown to be very potent in affecting mental retardation and cognitive development. Although hazardous waste sites have not been directly correlated with heart attack risk, this study that Graves highlights demonstrates the importance of environmental conditions that are likely to be overlooked in racial groupings and therefore in race-based medicine.