Conflicts in Chemistry: The Case of Plastics

Health-Researcher-Antitoxicity-Advocate

Health-Researcher-Antitoxicity-Advocate

 

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Health Group: You are a Researcher and an Antitoxicity Advocate

Your Background and Biography

You are an expert on environmental toxins and on environmental law. As a professor at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities, you have an influential voice in matters that concern the environment. You are no isolated sage of the ivory tower; you are fighting the battle of environmental health from the front lines. You have written several important publications on law and the environment, and your book on the vulnerability of infants and children to toxins was covered on the front page of the New York Times Book Review, bringing a great deal of attention to you and your cause. You have a lively blog that has a following among health activists and environmentalists. You have an active role in public policy and have served as an adviser to a number of government agencies, including the White House, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) itself on matters relating to children’s health. You’re no stranger to the sort of exercise you’re preparing for. You have already testified before committees in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and you have given advice and guidance to the government in the creation of state and federal environmental-protection laws.

You are confident in your ability to persuade people of the importance of fighting against toxicity in the environment. You’re looking forward to the upcoming public hearing as a way to bring further attention to the public-health matters that concern you the most and to the opportunity to help craft some meaningful regulations that could improve some of the country’s worst environmental problems. You see promise and potential in the EPA’s new regulations for their own merit, but most of all you’re eager to embrace this hearing as an opportunity to raise awareness about the problem of environmental toxicity since you often find yourself amazed at how uninformed the public is about this issue. Along with voicing your concerns you also hope you can make sure that the new regulations include as much control over toxicity in plastics as possible.

You have been making the argument for a long time that the federal government should have the power to regulate plastics with strong controls over their production. As you prepare for the deliberations, you think of the horrors of toxicity that you have uncovered in your work and the injustice that has seen these horrors visited on the most vulnerable among us: the poor and the young. You are a scientist, and therefore you operate in the realms of facts, data, and ideas, but you can’t help but feel a sense of emotion intrude at the thought that you might be able to do something worthwhile to combat such unjust suffering and give comfort to the afflicted.

Your Mission

Your goal at this hearing is to convince the Regulators to include the Health Group’s recommendations in their final regulation. To make this argument effectively, you must

  • Complete the assigned readings listed at the bottom of this page;

  • Work closely with the other members of your group to develop clear answers to the Regulators’ questions;

  • Make use of as much specific information as possible to develop strong arguments that plastics need to be proven safe rather than assumed safe and that the only way to protect against the effects of toxins is to prevent the production of potentially toxic plastics;

  • Read as much as you can about your position and the positions of the other groups; and

  • Complete written reflections on your character, interest group, and readings as assigned. 

Your Victory Objectives

  • You will receive 10 points if the Regulators select your group’s proposal as the final regulation.

  • The Regulators will rank the interest groups by how well their goals are represented in the final regulation. You will receive between 1 and 5 points based on how the Health Group is ranked and how well the regulation reflects your goals.

Sources

Health Group Sources

Your Individual Sources

  • The Environmental Toll of Plastics,” by Jessica A. Knoblauch, Environmental Health News, July 2, 2009

  • Select one article from the bibliography on The Case of Plastics website recommended for the Health Group. Read the article and write two paragraphs summarizing the article and how it will be useful to you in the upcoming debate.

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