LEGALLY POISONED

LEGALLY POISONED

Carl F. Cranor
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Harvard University Press
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jbtxm
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    LEGALLY POISONED
    Book Description:

    Take a random walk through your life and you’ll find it is awash in industrial, often toxic, chemicals. Sip water from a plastic bottle and ingest bisphenol A. Prepare dinner in a non-stick frying pan or wear a layer of Gore-Tex only to be exposed to perfluorinated compounds. Hang curtains, clip your baby into a car seat, watch television—all are manufactured with brominated flame-retardants. Cosmetic ingredients, industrial chemicals, pesticides, and other compounds enter our bodies and remain briefly or permanently. Far too many suspected toxic hazards are unleashed every day that affect the development and function of our brain, immune system, reproductive organs, or hormones. But no public health law requires product testing of most chemical compounds before they enter the market. If products are deemed dangerous, toxicants must be forcibly reduced or removed—but only after harm has been done. In this scientifically rigorous legal analysis, Carl Cranor argues that just as pharmaceuticals and pesticides cannot be sold without pre-market testing, other chemical products should be subject to the same safety measures. Cranor shows, in terrifying detail, what risks we run, and that it is entirely possible to design a less dangerous commercial world.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-05892-7
    Subjects: Law, Political Science, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-15)

    Take a random walk through your life; it is awash in industrial chemicals, many toxic. Of course, we can all be aware that we are exposed to smog in the Los Angeles Air Basin or to a fog of pesticides being sprayed from a crop duster or to probably unhealthy water from a river contaminated with factory wastes. Most exposures are not obvious, however.

    Our exposures, understood as substances reaching the boundaries of our bodies, are often much more subtle, invisible, and otherwise undetectable. Drink water or soda from a plastic bottle or eat canned refried beans or soup, and...

  5. 2 NOWHERE TO HIDE
    (pp. 16-46)

    Commercial chemicals of known and unknown toxicity permeate our lives. If you are sitting on your couch as you read this, the cushions likely contain brominated fire retardants: polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. They are not chemically bound in the upholstery, so over time, and perhaps not too much time, they will begin to migrate from your sofa to the floor, the air, and your lungs. Eating red meat and chicken will add to your intake of PBDEs.¹ Walking on or vacuuming your carpet disturbs any PBDEs in the dust. After disturbance, the remnants can settle back into the carpet...

  6. 3 DISCOVERING DISEASE, DYSFUNCTION, AND DEATH BY MOLECULES
    (pp. 47-80)

    Not only do industrial molecules invade our bodies; they can also cause harm. Some can kill directly and quickly. High doses of arsenic can kill rapidly. Lower doses might drag out the process but be just as deadly in the end, as presented in Arsenic and Old Lace. Animal studies strongly suggest that ill-timed low doses during fetal development can contribute to lung, skin, urinary, and bladder cancers long after arsenic has left a person’s body.¹

    During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance the route to a kingship or other positions of high power might lie through long-term lacing of...

  7. 4 CAVEAT PARENS: A NATION AT RISK FROM CONTAMINANTS
    (pp. 81-131)

    Until about forty years ago the scientific community viewed a woman’s womb as a sheltered, capsulelike environment, safe from the intrusions and dangers of the outside world. Not only did scientists subscribe to the idea, but they also conveyed it to their students as the received view.¹

    The public understanding of the womb was likely not different from that of the scientific community. If a woman were pregnant, she could continue her eating and personal habits—a predinner cocktail, one or two glasses of wine with dinner—because her developing child was tucked safely inside her. There was no need...

  8. 5 RECKLESS NATION: HOW EXISTING LAWS FAIL TO PROTECT CHILDREN
    (pp. 132-177)

    Some industrial chemicals, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and pollutants have already caused harm from in utero exposure. Others pose live risks, especially during development. Some may trigger transgenerational effects and others have been shown to act in concert with other contaminants to pose unexpected risks. And there are more worrisome signs on the horizon. For example, a recent study found polybrominated diphenyl ether fire retardants (PBDEs) in the livers of human fetuses and at higher concentrations than currently exist for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in some tissues.¹ By themselves, higher concentrations of PBDEs in children appear to reduce mental and physical development.² Because...

  9. 6 A MORE PRUDENT APPROACH TO REDUCE TOXIC INVASIONS
    (pp. 178-207)

    If postmarket laws are reckless toward our health and sufficiently misconceived to protect us well from toxicants, what would constitute more farsighted and sensible legal and regulatory safeguards for our health? What kinds of laws could help ensure that our children and we are not contaminated and put at risk by toxicants?

    Since most industrial chemicals can contaminate the biological material that goes into creating a child, should public health officials know which substances would disrupt this process? Should they also know whether individual substances could cross the placenta or enter breast milk? Or should they remain ignorant of these...

  10. 7 WHAT KIND OF WORLD DO WE WANT TO CREATE?
    (pp. 208-248)

    Imagine a world much like ours but with one major difference. In accordance with the proposal in Chapter 6, companies’ new and existing products would be tested to determine hazardous properties so that any risks would be reduced or the products removed from (or prevented from entering) commerce before contamination occurs. Major pollutants would also be tested for their toxicity because these too can pose significant risks. The tests might not be unerringly accurate, but there would be less toxic contamination and many fewer risks because of better and more comprehensive testing than at present.

    If such a world had...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 249-305)
  12. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 306-308)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 309-315)