Conflicts in Chemistry: The Case of Plastics

Industry-Toxicologist

Industry-Toxicologist

 

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Industry Group: You are a Toxicologist

Your Background and Biography

You come from a family that put a high priority on success and accomplishment in the fields of science and medicine. Your father, a physician, and your mother, a research scientist, had a plan for you from the time you were very young: they wanted you to attend a prestigious university and reach the highest levels of achievement in education. Fortunately, you were an exceptionally intelligent, hard-working student, and you found comfort in taking advanced courses in which you were always successful. You were by far the brightest student in your high school. Some people might have felt lonely in this situation, but you loved the solitude of your superiority. The elite, by definition, have few real peers.   

Not even Harvard University was a challenge. You studied chemistry and biology, graduating Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude. You attended medical school at Duke University while simultaneously pursuing your doctorate in toxicology, and you graduated with a Ph.D. and an M.D.    

You worked in the private sector for 15 years, where you assumed a leadership role in the area of endocrine issues. Your team of regulatory toxicologists provided expert support and advice to corporations with respect to regulatory affairs, product safety, and developments and requirements regarding toxicity studies and risk management. 

Now you have returned to school, this time as a professor of medical toxicology at Johns Hopkins Medical School, where you conduct important research and teach the next generation of physicians. In your lab you manage a research team that studies endocrine disruption. You are well aware of the potential risks and know there is clear evidence that certain environmental chemicals can interfere with normal hormonal processes. Your research has also shown there is sufficient evidence to conclude that adverse endocrine-mediated effects have occurred in some wildlife species. However, evidence that human health has been adversely affected by exposure to endocrine-active chemicals is weak.      

Your combined knowledge of manufacturing industries, regulatory processes, and toxicology makes you an ideal participant in these hearings. You are a highly sought-after expert with over 100 publications. You have served on the editorial board of the Journal of Applied Toxicology, advised the Environmental Protection Agency on other regulatory matters, and served on industry peer-review panels. You understand the concern regarding potential endocrine disruption; however, you cannot gather enough scientific evidence to prove that plastics have adversely affected human health. You do not think plastics should be regulated based on this weak evidence. As a distinguished professor at a prestigious medical school with many years of providing expert advice, you know you can counter the activists’ arguments by citing research that calls their claims into question.

Your Mission

Your goal at this hearing is to convince the Regulators to include the Industry 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 the many societal benefits of plastics outweigh the problems and that the industry can and does regulate itself without government intervention;

  • 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 Industry Group is ranked and how well the regulation reflects your goals.

Sources

Industry Group Sources

Your Individual Sources

  • Is It Time to End Concerns over the Estrogenic Effects of Bisphenol A?,” Richard M. Sharpe, Toxicological Sciences, December 7, 2009

  • Select one article from the bibliography on The Case of Plastics website recommended for the Industry 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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