Our Chemical Selves
Gender, Toxics, and Environmental Health
Everyday exposures to chemicals found in homes, schools, and workplaces are having devastating consequences on human health. These toxic exposures derive from common personal care products and cosmetics, household cleaners, pharmaceuticals, furniture, the food we eat, the water we drink, and even the air we breathe. Our Chemical Selves examines the impact of toxics on the long-term health of Canadians. Written by leading researchers in science, law, and public policy, the chapters in this collection reveal that while exposures to chemicals are pervasive and widespread, people from low-income, racialized, and Indigenous communities face a far greater risk of exposure. At the same time, the risks associated with these exposures (and the burdens of managing them) rest disproportionately on the shoulders of women. Rather than focusing on the “chemical enemy,” this collection hones in on the “political economy of pollution” by critically examining the system that manufactures the chemicals and the social, political, and gender relations that enable harmful chemicals to continue being produced and consumed. Enlivened by contributions from law, science, and policy scholars, Our Chemical Selves establishes the connections between profit incentives, the unsustainable production of waste, exploitative labour practices, and differential exposure to pollutants. Ultimately, this collection calls for revisions to the way we approach the regulation of toxics.
This accessible collection of original articles will be an indispensable reference to academics and students in law, environmental studies, and women’s studies, as well as to policy-makers and general readers interested in the relationship between the environment and public health.
The book... provides a wide variety of scholarship on chemical threats from a feminist political economy perspective. It is particularly effective at arguing for both extended producer responsibility for potentially harmful substances and the precautionary principle as a policy adoption strategy when dealing with uncertainties in the science of chemical pollution.
Our Chemical Selves is a fascinating book that raises important questions about the impact of chemicals on women’s health in Canada … This book should be read by environmental historians or anyone concerned with the impact of chemicals in our world. Not only do the contributors highlight important issues regarding women’s health, but they offer useful solutions to change our collective indifference toward the intensification of chemicals in our world.
The strength of this work lies in its success at bringing recent developments in science together with legal and policy analysis and recommendations. For anyone interested in women’s environmental health issues, it is a must-read … This book will help to provide researchers, policy-makers and advocates with tools to understand and address links between social inequity, environmental health and gendered differences in chemical exposure and effects
[U]nique and valuable for its focus on gender and environmental justice.
A timely collection of chapters that are academically rigorous and policy relevant, while speaking from and to personal experiences of harm and resistance by those most affected by everyday exposure to toxic chemicals.
This is, to my knowledge, the first book of its kind. It applies a gendered perspective to regulatory challenges presented by chemicals, with a distinctive Canadian voice. It is very well documented, highly readable, very interesting, and timely.
A smart, impressively researched, and deeply relevant volume ... It shows how regulatory systems that ignore the interactions of biology and social locations of gender, race, and economic disparity will be inadequate to protect ourselves, our children, and our environment. Highly recommended to all those concerned with the health of our environment, our food, and our families.
Dayna Nadine Scott teaches administrative law, environmental law and justice, and risk regulation. Her research has focused on environmental justice activism, the regulation of pollution and toxic substances, gender and environmental heath, and feminist theory of the body. She is the director of the National Network on Environments and Women’s Health.
Contributors: Bita Amani, Matthias Beck, James T. Brophy, Samantha Cukier, Robert Dematteo, Troy Dixon, Warren G. Foster, William Fraser, Michael Gilbertson, Laila Zahra Harris, Margaret M. Keith, Sarah Lewis, Norah MacKendrick, Josephine Mandamin, Patricia Monnier, Jean Morrision, Jyoti Phartiyal, M. Ann Phillips, Lauren Rakowski, Nancy Ross, Annie Sasco, Dugald Seeley, Adrian A. Smith, Tasha Smith, Alexandra Stiver, Maria P. Velez, Aimée L. Ward, Andrew E. Watterson, Sarah Young.
Foreword: Water Is Life / Josephine Mandamin
Introduction: The Production of Pollution and Consumption of Chemicals in Canada / Dayna Nadine Scott, Lauren Rakowski, Laila Zahra Harris, and Troy Dixon
Part 1: “Consuming” Chemicals
1 Wonderings on Pollution and Women’s Health / M. Ann Phillips
2 Protecting Ourselves from Chemicals: A Study of Gender and Precautionary Consumption / Norah MacKendrick
3 Sex and Gender in Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan / Dayna Nadine Scott and Sarah Lewis
Part 2: Routes of Women’s Exposures
4 Trace Chemicals on Tap: The Potential for Gendered Health Effects of Chronic Exposures via Drinking Water / Jyoti Phartiyal
5 Consuming “DNA as Chemicals” and Chemicals as Food / Bita Amani
6 Consuming Carcinogens: Women and Alcohol / Nancy Ross, Jean Morrison, Samantha Cukier, and Tasha Smith
Part 3: Hormones as the “Messengers of Gender”?
7 The Impact of Phthalates on Women’s Reproductive Health / Maria P. Velez, Patricia Monnier, Warren G. Foster, and William D. Fraser
8 Plastics Recycling and Women’s Reproductive Health / Aimée L. Ward and Annie Sasco
9 Xenoestrogens and Breast Cancer: Chemical Risk, Exposure, and Corporate Power / Sarah Young and Dugald Seely
Part 4: Consumption in the Production Process
10 Plastics Industry Workers and Breast Cancer Risk: Are We Heeding the Warnings? / Margaret M. Keith, James T. Brophy, Robert DeMatteo, Michael Gilbertson, Andrew E. Watterson, and Matthias Beck
11 Power and Control at the Production-Consumption Nexus: Migrant Women Farmworkers and Pesticides / Adrian A. Smith and Alexandra Stiver
Conclusion: Thinking about Thresholds, Literal and Figurative / Dayna Nadine Scott
Health and Sustainability in the Canadian Food System
Advocacy and Opportunity for Civil Society
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