Cover: Legally Poisoned: How the Law Puts Us at Risk from Toxicants, from Harvard University PressCover: Legally Poisoned in PAPERBACK

Legally Poisoned

How the Law Puts Us at Risk from Toxicants

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Product Details


$30.00 • £24.95 • €27.00

ISBN 9780674072213

Publication Date: 03/11/2013


328 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


[An] important new book… Legally Poisoned makes it ever so clear that Americans are at risk of being poisoned and the reason is the postmarket design of the laws that are supposed to protect us from harmful chemicals. The situation is unnecessary, morally repugnant, and economically inefficient. Hopefully this book will help to focus attention why the United States should follow the E.U.’s lead in requiring premarket testing of chemicals.—Sidney A. Shapiro, American Journal of Industrial Medicine

Legally Poisoned offers a refreshingly different take on toxic chemicals in our lives… Cranor not only deals with captivating and current issues but also explains how we got into our current situation and more importantly how, given the public and political will, we might get out.—Emily Monosson, American Scientist

In this compelling, well-referenced work, Cranor addresses a prominent public health concern: environmental chemicals and their suspected toxicities. He adroitly presents historical drug failures (e.g., thalidomide and diethylstilbestrol), along with the associated public fear and outrage. The book offers excellent advice regarding the future status of environmental and human effects of chemicals and drugs. It asks readers to stay informed and to participate in public debate and legislation in this area.—J.G. Schnellmann, Choice

Carl Cranor’s new book, Legally Poisoned, provides an important argument for a new, pre-market approach to U.S. regulatory policy for industrial chemicals. While the book is dense in places, it is very clear, and it provides a much-needed synthesis of scientific, ethical, and legal perspectives that few scholars are capable of producing… Cranor has done us a great service by marshaling a host of evidence to show that our current post-market regulatory system for industrial chemicals is ethically bankrupt. He makes a convincing case for a new, pre-market system. However, unless we make aggressive efforts to find safe and appealing alternatives to toxic substances, industry will probably still find creative ways to dilute the effectiveness of a pre-market regulatory scheme. Therefore, one of the most valuable features of Cranor’s pre-market system might be its potential to assist and stimulate creative efforts…to develop safe alternatives that will lessen the financial incentives to market unsafe products. And, even if Cranor’s arguments do not gain political traction, the search for safer alternatives will still be an important strategy to pursue.—Kevin C. Elliott, Ethics, Policy, and Environment

For decades great volumes of petrochemical products have been released into the environment without serious regulatory attention, despite signs of health and ecological damage. Carl Cranor’s recent book, Legally Poisoned: How the Law Puts Us at Risk from Toxicants, is a valuable and timely introduction to this challenge. The book outlines human health risks of low doses of chemical toxicants, describes the exposures of greatest concern, and explains the scientific underpinnings of chemicals regulation. It then summarizes recent breakthroughs in scientific research on chemical toxicity. Cranor’s presentation of this work is revelatory, even shocking. It challenges our current tolerance for low-level chemical exposures… Numerous environmental scholars have written on pollution as a violation of justice between generations and also justice across society today. Cranor has done a service in presenting this complex and important issue so accessibly in Legally Poisoned.—Mary L. Lyndon, Jurimetrics

[Legally Poisoned] raises critical questions regarding our society’s moral and ethical values and our sense of personal responsibility. Growing public awareness and concerns about toxic chemicals have now brought these issues to the forefront of national attention, and we are likely to hear more about such controversies as science continues to advance.—Valerie R. Aggerbeck, Law Library Journal

Unnerving… Legally Poisoned is a frightening book. It reminds readers that lead poisons the nervous system and PCBs disrupt the reproductive system and that both have a long half-life, afflicting both humans and the environment decades after lead was banned from gasoline and PCB use was outlawed. The book cites a number of studies on laboratory animals that suggest a link between adult disease and early exposure to ubiquitous chemical substances, including perfluorinated compounds in Scotchgard and non-stick cookware, and bisphenol A, or BPA, a synthetic estrogen that hardens the plastic in water bottles, baby bottles and the liners of cans… Cranor believes a less-risky world is within reach… Legally Poisoned’s…regulatory message comes through loud and clear.—Melinda Burns,

Cranor’s volume explains how and why we all are legally poisoned—and what we can do about it. In a rigorous ethical, scientific, and legal analysis, he details these harms, argues against them, and explains how the legal and regulatory world could be designed to avoid them… Cranor’s book is one of the best contemporary analyses of the ethical, legal, and regulatory harms posed by failed chemical-product testing… Cranor’s book is destined to become a classic. It is a must-read for scholars in philosophy of law, philosophy of epidemiology, practical ethics, and ethics of public health. All policy makers in the legal and regulatory arena should be required to read it. More importantly, it is a must-read for every person who wonders why her family members are being destroyed prematurely by disease and death, even though they eat right, exercise, and see the best doctors… It is a masterpiece… This book, as it is, is about as close as one can get to perfect scholarship in this area of ethics, risk, and philosophy of science. It is one that every person, especially every parent, should read. Most of us have children, and all of us need to hear the powerful message about environmental harms to children that Cranor presents. After all, if recent research about ‘developmental programming’ for environmentally-induced disease is right, adults often get a second chance. They frequently take medicines and get well after adult disease and dysfunction. Children, however, have only one chance to develop.—Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

In the early 21st century, our bodies are permeated by everything from preservatives to fire retardants, which have poured into the market and into the world for decades without consistently rigorous testing for safety. Legally Poisoned shows just how little our current laws protect us, and particularly our children. Pointing out that individual self-protection is impossible, Cranor makes a powerful case for pre-market testing by manufacturers, and the consequences for public health if we continue to discover chemical dangers only after the harm is done.—John Strait Applegate, Indiana University

Both passionate and incisive, this book reveals how much we have failed to control the spread of toxic chemicals in our environment and our bodies. Our laws are ineffective at preventing the use of toxicants in the first place, and unbearably slow at stopping them once damage has been done. Carl Cranor recommends reforms to protect the public health that are thorough, pragmatic—and necessary.—Ellen Silbergeld, Johns Hopkins University

Drawing from a wealth of scientific and legal sources, Cranor exposes the frightening failures of U.S. toxics policy that effectively allow children to be used as guinea pigs in assessing the safety of chemical products, and offers reform proposals for a safer and more just world.—Wendy Wagner, University of Texas at Austin

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