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Dangerous Trade

Histories of Industrial Hazard across a Globalizing World

Christopher Sellers

Publication Year: 2011

From anthrax to asbestos to pesticides, industrial toxins and pollutants have troubled the world for the past century and longer. Environmental hazards from industry remain one of the world's foremost killers.Dangerous Trade establishes historical groundwork for a better understanding of how and why these hazards continue to threaten our shrinking world.

In this timely collection, an international group of scholars casts a rigorous eye towards efforts to combat these ailments. Dangerous Trade contains a wide range of case studies that illuminate transnational movements of risk—from the colonial plantations of Indonesia to compensation laws in late 19th century Britain, and from the occupational medicine clinics of 1960s New York City to the burning of electronic waste in early twenty-first century Uruguay.

The essays in Dangerous Trade provide an unprecedented broad perspective of the dangers stirred up by industrial activity across the globe, as well as the voices rasied to remedy them.

Published by: Temple University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

Tables and Figures

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

We thank the National Science Foundation for funding the Stony Brook University conference in December 2007 at which contributors to this volume first presented their papers to one another. At Stony Brook, we also appreciated the support provided...

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pp. 1-14

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, industrial diseases elicit only mild curiosity among most readers in affluent corners of the world. They seem part of a vanishing past, slipping out of modern memory, long since vanquished by previous battles against antiquated...

Part I

Creating Industrial Hazardsin the Developing World

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p. 16-16

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1. Rubber Plantation Workers, Work Hazards,and Health in Colonial Malaya, 1900–1940

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pp. 17-32

By the early twentieth century, Britain had created an externally oriented colonial economy in Malaya (the Malay Peninsula and Singapore before 1948) based on rubber and tin. Rubber cultivation centred on the plantation mode of production, incorporated new...

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2. Work, Home, and Natural Environments

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pp. 33-45

José G. Ramírez had worked for the East Coast Oil Company since adolescence. Between 1908 and 1916, he worked twelve-hour shifts. For the next seven years, he also worked Sundays. By 1927 Ramírez had suffered serious illness and two major accidents. In 1924 he nearly...

Knowing and Controllingin the Developed World

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p. 46-46

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3. Global Markets and Local Conflictsin Mercury Mining

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pp. 47-59

In 2005, as a means of protecting European citizens and their environment from mercury’s highly toxic compounds, the European Commission adopted a “Mercury Strategy” calling for a reduction in mercury emissions and for measures to cut its use.1 The new policy seriously...

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4. Trade, Spores, and the Culture of Disease

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pp. 60-72

Among the dangerous trades that have injured and killed workers since the early days of industrialisation, the processing of animal parts such as wool and the manufacture of woollen products would appear to have presented few dangers. Nevertheless, this essay examines...

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5. Rayon, Carbon Disulfide, and the Emergenceof the Multinational Corporationin Occupational Disease

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pp. 73-84

The history of “artificial silk,” a man-made textile we know today as rayon, is tightly interwoven with the story of a single and singularly toxic synthetic chemical, carbon disulfide (CS2). Between 1910 and 1930, the artificial silk industry grew exponentially to assume...

Part II

New Transfers of Production

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p. 86-86

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6. Shipping the “Next Prize”

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pp. 87-98

Since 2004 a range of North American community and environmental organizations have successfully opposed liquefied natural gas (lng) infrastructure on the East and West coasts. From California and British Columbia to Rhode Island, Baja California, and...

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7. New Hazards and Old Disease

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pp. 99-111

A versatile heavy metal, lead has been mined and used by humans for over six thousand years, and its toxic effects were identified in writing almost twenty-five hundred years ago.1 Though one of the world’s oldest known occupational and environmental diseases, lead

New Knowledge and Coalitions

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p. 112-112

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8. Objective Collectives?

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pp. 124-125

In 1978 the New York Academy of Sciences listened to one of its distinguished members, Irving Selikoff, explain how he and his peers had recently achieved a deeper understanding of diseases caused by asbestos. New scientific research into this toxic mineral and its health hazards...

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9Bread and Poison

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pp. 126-139

This chapter tells the story of the encounter between a generation of Italian experts in industrial hygiene (physicians and sociologists) and factory workers, and how that encounter translated into new forms of knowledge and political action. The chapter aims to highlight...

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10A New Environmental Turn?

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pp. 140-152

Many contributors to Dangerous Trade note the peculiar relationship between industrial hazards and environmental consciousness. Sellers argues that the “environmental turn” of the mid-twentieth century was precipitated by occupational health problems that brought...

New Arenas of Contest

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p. 153-153

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11. A Tale of Two Lawsuits

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pp. 154-167

Contributions to this volume frequently note the impact of popular movements on the transformation of environmental health politics during the later twentieth century and the early years of this one. Activist groups have brought pressure to bear on governments to take...

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12. Pesticide Regulation, Citizen Action,and Toxic Trade

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pp. 168-180

In 1977, the pesticide dibromochloropropane (DBCP) came under public scrutiny in the United States as production workers linked their high rates of sterility to exposure to the toxic chemical. Over the following years, DBCP use in the United States was increasingly restricted and...

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13. Turning the Tide

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pp. 181-194

Asbestos—a mineral once used for fireproofing and insulation, and still used in some parts of the world for building products— can cause potentially fatal diseases: asbestosis (lung scarring), asbestos-related lung cancer, and mesothelioma (a virulent malignancy...

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pp. 195-206

Contributors to this collection share a common aim. We seek to puncture the complacency that prevails in much of the world today concerning industrial dangers. Those of us living in affluent, developed nations find it only too easy to congratulate ourselves on the...


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pp. 207-210


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pp. 211-218

E-ISBN-13: 9781439904701
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439904695

Page Count: 218
Publication Year: 2011