The Poison Paradigm
What a Toxic Chemical Tells us about the Politics of Science
New Books Network 2022
We are exposed to thousands of toxic chemicals daily. This is no accident; it is by design. They are everywhere – coating our consumer products, in our food packaging, being dumped into our lakes and sewers, and in countless other places. However, for the most part, regulators say that we need not worry.
That assessment is based on a simple 500-year-old adage, “the dose makes the poison.” The logic is simple: anything is poisonous, depending on how large a dose. Dosing yourself with a miniscule amount of lead will cause no harm; while drinking an enormous amount of water will kill you. Regulators then try to find safe exposure levels for these chemicals—and they assume a simple, direct relationship (less is fine, more is worse). So, no matter how toxic the chemical, you only need to worry if it passes a certain exposure threshold.
But what if that’s wrong?
This episode of Darts and Letters predecessor, Cited, asks that question. This episode is a central part of Darts and Letters’ DNA. We’re interested in the politics of science and academia. We like asking questions like who gets to be the expert, how does funding impact research outcomes, that kind of stuff.
This is a story about how what one chemical, bisphenol A, or “BPA”, tells us about the politics of science.
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