Surveying the Chemical Anthropocene Chemical Imaginaries and the Politics of Defining Toxicity

Yogi Hale Hendlin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

Faced with the non-optional acceptance of toxic chemical artifacts, the ubiquitous interweaving of chemicals in our social fabric often exists out of sight and out of mind. Yet, for many, toxic exposures signal life-changing or life-ending events, phantom threats that fail to appear as such until they become too late to mitigate. Assessments of toxicological risk consist of what Sheila Jasanoff calls “sociotechnical imaginaries,” arbitrations between calculated costs and benefits, known risks and scientifically wrought justifications of safety. Prevalent financial conflicts of interest and the socially determined hazards posed by chemical exposure suggest that chemical safety assessments and regulations are a form of postnormal science. Focusing on the histories of risk assessments of pesticides such as DDT, atrazine, PFAS, and glyphosate, this article critically reviews Michel Serres's notion of “appropriation by contamination.”

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-202
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironment and Society: Advances in Research
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2021

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