Toxic Safety: Flame Retardants, Chemical Controversies and Environmental Health

April 6, 2016
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

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Alissa Cordner, PhD, discussed Toxic Safety: Flame Retardants, Chemical Controversies, and Environmental Health. Initially marketed as a life-saving advancement, flame retardants are now mired in controversy. Some argue that data show the chemicals are unsafe while others continue to support their use. The tactics of each side have far-reaching consequences for how we interpret new scientific discoveries. Environmental sociologist, Alissa Cordner, PhD. discussed the more than one hundred interviews she conducted with activists, scientists, regulators, and industry professionals to isolate the social, scientific, economic, and political forces influencing environmental health policy today.

Cordner's new book, Toxic Safety: Flame Retardants, Chemical Controversies, and Environmental Health (Columbia University Press, 2016) is a revelatory text for public-health advocates that demonstrates that while all parties interested in health issues use science to support their claims, they do not compete on a level playing field and even good intentions can have deleterious effects. On this call, we looked at how Dr. Cordner's findings relate to efforts in Alaska to pass public health legislation. The Alaska State Legislature is currently considering the Toxic-Free Children's Act (SB 111/HB 199), a bill that would ban ten toxic flame retardants in children's products and furniture. The bill recently passed in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee and is awaiting a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Featured Speaker

Alissa Cordner, PhD, is an assistant professor of sociology at Whitman College where she teaches Sociology and Environmental Studies courses. Her research interests include environmental sociology, environmental health and justice, risk and disasters, science and knowledge, social movements, and policy and participation. She received her PhD in sociology from Brown University and is a coauthor of The Civic Imagination: Making a Difference in American Political Life (2014).

This call was hosted by the CHE-Alaska Partnership. It lasted one hour and was recorded.