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Is Your Body a Toxic Site? Reproductive Health as an Environmental Issue

April 13, 2015


An event presented by the Politics of Evidence Working Group in partnership with Environmental Defence.

Join us for this public forum connecting reproductive and environmental health in our everyday encounters with endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Come learn about endocrine-disruptors, the extent of our contact with them, and how the degree of our vulnerability is linked to what is done (or not done) by scientists, the government, industry, environmentalists, and ourselves as concerned consumers. Engage with our speakers in thinking about the politics of evidence in what we are allowed to know and not know about our exposure. The event will be a lively discussion cutting across areas of science, law, science studies, and environmental activism.

When: Friday, May 15, 2015
Where: University of Toronto, 75 Queen’s Park Crescent E., Emmanuel College, Room 001
Time: 7pm. Doors will open at 6pm.
Admission: Free. Space is Limited. Register to Attend.

*Please note that at 6:45pm, your seat may be released to first come, first served.

The event hopes to spark conversations around the questions of:
How is human reproductive health affected by everyday encounters with a group of chemicals
known as endocrine-disruptors? What does the current research tell us? How are endocrine-disruptors regulated here in Canada? Why don’t we know more?

Our speakers will discuss the mounting scientific evidence of the reproductive risks of exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals which circulate in products such as plastics, pesticides, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, toothpaste, and flame retardants. Since the 1990s when scientists discovered feminized fish in the water, an explosion of scientific research has linked endocrine-disrupting chemicals to a range of reproductive disorders such as testicular cancer, prostate cancer, genital malformations, breast cancer, infertility, uterine tumours, and endometriosis.

This evening promises to raise our awareness of these chemicals while broadening our understanding of reproductive health as an environmental issue from a scientific, legal, and historical perspective. Join a scientist, a lawyer and a science studies scholar to discuss the current debates endocrine-disruptors pose for science, government, and industry and what you can do to change it.

The Speakers:

Miriam Diamond is a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences (as of July 1, 2012) after her affiliation with the Department of Geography and Planning since 1991. She is cross-appointed to the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, School of the Environment, and the Physical and Environmental Sciences Program at Scarborough College. She received her B.Sc. in Biology from the University of Toronto (1976), M.Sc. from the University of Alberta in Zoology (1980), M.Sc.Eng from Queen’s University (Kingston Ontario) in Mining Engineering (1984), and her Ph.D. from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry from University of Toronto (1990).

The goal of Prof. Diamond’s multidisciplinary research program is to improve our understanding of chemical contaminants from emission, through to transport indoors and outdoors, and ultimately human and ecological exposure. This research has been published in over 100 articles and chapters in addition to receiving media attention. Prof. Diamond is an Associate Editor of the journal Environmental Science and Technology which is a leading journal in the field, a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Environmental Law Association and was, until recently, a member of the Science Advisory Board of the International Joint Commission of Canada. She is a Fellow of the Canadian Geographical Society and was named Canadian Environmental Scientist of the Year in 2007 by that society. She was Co-chair of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s Toxic Reduction Scientific Expert Panel and just completed acting as Co-chair of the Ministry’s Multi-Stakeholder Panel on the “Living List” of the Toxics Reduction Act.

Dayna Nadine Scott is an Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. She was the Director of the National Network on Environments and Women’s Health from 2008-2013. Her edited collection, Our Chemical Selves: Gender, Toxics, and Environmental Health, was recently released by UBC Press. Dayna researches in the areas of toxics regulation, environmental justice organizing, and gender and environmental health.

Michelle Murphy is a professor in the History Department and Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto. She has a PhD in the History of Science from Harvard University and a Bachelors Degree in Biology and the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Sick Building Syndrome (2006), Seizing the Means of Reproduction (2012) and co-edited Landscapes of Exposure.

She is the director of the Technoscience Research Unit and co-organizer of the Technoscience Salon.

Panel Discussion Host:

Maggie Macdonald, Program Manager, Toxics, Environmental Defence
Maggie conducts research and public education on environmental health, with a focus on endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. She holds a Masters in Social and Political Thought from York University where she wrote on the topic of agnotology.

About the Organizers and Sponsors:

The Politics of Evidence Working Group is based at York University. The Politics of Evidence Working Group (PoE) is a coalition of academics, scientists, and activists committed to challenging the fraught politics of evidence in Canada which interfere with our right to know about the well-being of our bodies, communities, and environments. It is the organizer of The Write2Know Project, which provides the public with an opportunity to ask federal scientists and Ministers about the results of the government’s environmental monitoring and scientific research programs.

Environmental Defence is Canada’s most effective environmental action organization. We challenge and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and more prosperous life for all. Maggie Macdonald leads Environmental Defence’s KickOut Toxics Campaign. Maggie Macdonald will be the MC of the event.

This event has been supported by The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Canadian Environmental Law Association, The Environmental Health Institute of Canada, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, Scientists for the Right To Know, Technoscience Research Unit, the University of Toronto Scarborough’s Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, and Women’s Healthy Environments Network.

For more information, please contact:
Carla Hustak,
Janet Patterson,


Politics of Evidence Working Group Event Page:


The ‘State of Endocrine Science’ as a UN Concern: Interview with Canadian scientist Derek Muir

April 1, 2015

I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Canadian scientist, Derek Muir, an internationally recognized expert on the current environmental risks of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Muir was one of the authors of the most recent UN Report on the state of endocrine science. Since 1984, Muir has been investigating chemical contaminants in Canada. He has worked with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and has been involved in Arctic monitoring programs. Over the course of his impressive career as an environmental scientist, he has conducted specific studies on polar bears, seals, beluga whales, and fish as bio-indicators of levels of chemical exposures and environmental harm.

My interview with Muir was an enlightening experience, providing valuable insight into how scientists generate knowledge about endocrine-disrupting chemicals. I also learned about the challenges of negotiating scientific practice with the objectives of policy-makers, agencies, and institutions in addition to the practical needs for funding scientific research. Muir also highlighted the geographical scope of endocrine science in terms of both specific Canadian sites of concern and our lack of knowledge of endocrine disruptors beyond North America and Europe.

Read more…

The TRU supports the Write2Know project

March 12, 2015
Write2Know Final Logo
In solidarity with the scientists working for the federal government, the Politics of Evidence Working Group, has launching the Write2Know Project, lead my Natasha Myers and Max Liboiron.
Write2Know is a letter-writing campaign that mobilizes the public to pose pressing questions to Canadian government scientists and ministers about the health of our bodies, communities, and environments.  The campaign aims to expose the injustices of government constraints on our access to federal science and scientists, the cancellation of research programs, and the closure of libraries and archives. The questions and letters we have prepared grapple with such urgent issues as: the government’s failure to conduct an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls; the environmental injustices of contaminants circulating in the far north; the misuse of climate data to promote industry-friendly forestry policies; and more. Take a look at the website to find out more about how it works.
Write2Know Week is March 23-27. Beyond March, the site will stay up to generate more signatures, and our hope is that it can be used as a teaching tool in university classrooms and public schools. How might you bring these issues into the classroom? Contact Write2Know if you want to collaborate to develop teaching kits!
The project is supported by Scientists for the Right to Know, Evidence for Democracy, DeSmog Canada, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, CAUT, the Technoscience Research Unit, the Institute for Science and Technology Studies at York University and WaSTE at Memorial University. PIPSC, the union representing federal scientists has also given its support.
We need your support to get this campaign circulating widely.

Flying Blind and Canadian Environmental Health Research: An Interview with Former Federal Scientist Michael Arts

March 8, 2015

Michael Arts is part of the the research team studying the jellification of lakes. Reduced calcium availability in Ontario lakes is hindering the survival of aquatic organisms with high calcium requirements, leading to the rising dominance of nutrient-poor, jelly-clad animals.

I recently interviewed environmental scientist and Ryerson University professor, Michael Arts. Arts has been the subject of considerable media attention for his experience with the Harper government’s cuts, restrictions on the communications of his findings, and, finally, the loss of his job at Environment Canada. Much of the media hype around Arts, however, has largely focused on what happened to Arts in the last few years at Environment Canada. Amid much of this media coverage, what seems to have gotten lost is the specific nature of Arts’s research on fatty acids, why his findings are important to Canadians’ well-being, and what kind of message it sends when the Harper Government shuts down this work.

Read more…

Silence of the Labs Panel Discussion, January 27

January 29, 2015

At the University of Toronto’s School of Public Policy, Evidence for Democracy hosted a special screening of the CBC documentary, Silence of the Labs, followed by a panel discussion. The event is part of current efforts to raise public awareness of the Harper Government’s “war on science.” The film and the panel discussion drew attention to the Harper Government’s unprecedented slashing of scientific research programs, mass dismissals of federal scientists who do not fit Harper’s economic and corporate agenda, curtailment of scientists’ freedom to speak to the public, and systematic dismantling of institutions, laboratories, and information databases that are crucial to our knowledge of Canadian society, environment, and public health.

Read more…

Evidencing Disaster Salon, January 23

January 29, 2015

In the recently held Technoscience Salon on Evidencing Disaster, Max Liboiron and Kim Fortun provoked a lively discussion around how we ‘narrate’ disaster, disaster’s temporalities, and politicized modes of collecting disaster data. Liboiron provided a compelling example of her experience in data activism in the wake of ‘Hurricane Sandy,’ showing how  the configuration of disaster changed depending on whether Sandy was considered a short-term crisis or the exacerbated effect of a slower, long-term disaster of chronic poverty. Liboiron presented salon attendees with startling discrepancies in disaster data, comparing the mass data collected from interviews with ‘official’ disaster data that eliminated individuals who were not counted as ‘representative’ populations according to ‘census’ criteria.  Ironically, this eliminated vulnerable populations residing in disaster zones  such as low-income black single mothers. Liboiron provoked salon attendees to re-conceptualize disaster’s temporalities and the making of evidence based on what or whom counts as data. Kim Fortun raised the issue of narrative capacity in framing data collection. Fortun emphasized the roles of ethnographers and critical theorists in grappling with the complexity of disaster, what Fortun called “kaleidoscopic insight.” Discussant Christianne Stephens urged the salon to consider how to approach the problem of incoherent evidence, scientific uncertainty, and the problems this raises for communicating with the wider public. Our own Michelle Murphy, another discussant,urged salon participants to reflect on the geo-politics of generating disaster data in neoliberal and neo-conservative capitalist regimes. Murphy highlighted the global asymmetries in what counts as disaster, where, and what form the response takes.

The Politics of Evidence Working Group

January 13, 2015

TRU is excited to be one of the partners collaborating with the new Politics of Evidence Working Group organized by Natasha Myers. The Politics of Evidence Working Group is a coalition of academics, scientists, and activists working together to  challenge the fraught politics of evidence in Canada today, troubling the obstacles that interfere with our “right to know” about the health and well-being of our bodies, communities, and environments.  The group is concerned with the current Canadian government’s “war on science,” across the natural and social sciences. This includes the defunding of scientific research and environmental monitoring, the cancellation of the long form census, the closure of research stations, libraries, and archives, and the muzzling of federal scientists.  The goal of the group is to raise public awareness and to challenge existing barriers to research and the dissemination of research findings, whether such barriers come from the public or private sector. By interrogating the uses and abuses of evidence, we seek to highlight where science and technology in Canada intersect with issues of social and environmental justice.

The Politics of Evidence coalition is part of a broader network of organizations that include Scientists for the Right to Know, Evidence for Democracy, and Desmog.


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