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Tainted Milk

Breastmilk, Feminisms, and the Politics of Environmental Degradation

Maia Boswell-Penc

Publication Year: 2006

Tainted Milk provides an in-depth analysis of the debate about infant nourishment issues, with a particular focus on environmentally contaminated breastmilk. Maia Boswell-Penc asks why feminists and environmentalists have, for the most part, remained relatively quiet about the fact that environmental toxins have been appearing in breastmilk. She argues that feminists avoid the topic because of their fear of focusing on biological mothering and essentialist thinking, while environmentalists are reluctant to be perceived as fearmongers advocating formula use and contributing to public hysteria. Boswell-Penc also points to the continuing racism, classism, ageism, and corporatization that leaves the less privileged among us more vulnerable.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-x

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. xi-xii

I would like to thank many people for helping me to get this book out to press and helping me to manage my life during the process. First, I want to thank Dr. Stanley Penc, my husband, for being a loving supporter and source of stability throughout this process. Only he could remain so calm while watching me struggle, and while finishing medical school and working on a residency—all with a puppy and two babies in the mix. I would also like to thank my children, Thatcher and Amelia, for being such wonderfully good-natured babies; I could never have gotten so much work done otherwise. I want to thank the Women’s Studies Department at the University at Albany...

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-16

In December 2003, a series of commercials were supposed to have aired on national television. The ads dealt with the importance of breastfeeding and the risks associated with choosing not to breastfeed. Supporters said that running them could help bring about healthier babies, healthier people, and a healthier environment and that they could save money on health expenditures as well as save lives. Critics claimed they were unfair to moms who could not breastfeed...

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Chapter One. THE EVOLVING NARRATIVE OF INFANT FOOD CONTAMINATION

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pp. 17-59

It makes sense to begin to come to terms with the story of breastmilk toxicity by examining a series of historical events. This chapter offers sketches of a few moments in which infant sustenance either occupied public sentiment as being a problem or played a significant role in infant health, yet, for some reason, did not enter public discourse as significant. It is instructive to position the concept...

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Chapter Two. TOXIC DISCLOSURE

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pp. 61-98

Many people who care deeply about environmental issues know of Rachel Carson as the “mother” of contemporary environmental movements. We think of Silent Spring, published in 1962, as the seminal text that informs our thinking about the relationship between contemporary Americans and the environment in which we live. It, almost single-handedly, began to rouse us, as a nation, to the stark truth—that our approach to the world that surrounds us has...

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Chapter Three. BREAST FETISHIZATION, BREAST CANCER, AND BREAST AUGMENTATION

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pp. 99-136

A cursory survey suggests that, by and large, self-identified feminists, those who position their feminism as central to their self-conceptions, do not view breastfeeding or the environmental contamination of breastmilk as significant feminist issues. While some recent attention indicates that this attitude may be shifting somewhat, the reality is that feminists have not focused on child sustenance...

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Chapter Four. POLLUTING THE “WATERS” OF THE MOST VULNERABLE

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pp. 137-165

Due to the relentless work of countless environmental justice activists, more and more people are beginning to understand what we mean when we talk about environmental racism and environmental in-justice. And many are beginning to realize that these labels refer to something very real going on in our midst. Furthermore...

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Conclusion. A NEED FOR MORE ATTENTION, AND MORE CAREFUL ATTENTION TO BREASTMILK TOXICITY

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pp. 167-176

I began this book with a story about a missed opportunity, specifically about how our institutions have failed to support one pro-breastfeeding ad campaign. That story is part of a larger narrative, one that concerns the environmental contamination of breastmilk. When we confront the reality that the breastmilk of...

NOTES

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pp. 177-184

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APPENDIX A

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pp. 185-186

There is some disagreement about rates of breastfeeding in the United States and abroad. Discrepancies may involve whether studies are considering “exclusive” breastfeeding and the duration of breastfeeding being referred to. Some studies consider initiation rates—including whether a woman breastfeeds even...

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APPENDIX B

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pp. 187-

Several sources have issued warnings about fish contaminated with PCBs, mercury, dioxin, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals and have noted that scientists link these contaminants to brain damage, hormone disruption, cancer, and other health problems. Many of these toxins accumulate in the body and can be passed on to the fetus during pregnancy or to the infant during breastfeeding....

REFERENCES

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pp. 189-207

INDEX

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pp. 209-212


E-ISBN-13: 9780791481851
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791467190
Print-ISBN-10: 0791467198

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Breastfeeding -- Health aspects -- United States -- History.
  • Food contamination -- Environmental aspects.
  • Infants -- United States -- Nutrition -- History.
  • Breast milk -- Contamination -- United States -- History.
  • Environmental degradation -- Health aspects.
  • Pollution -- Health aspects.
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