The Normalized Toxic Body: a Site for Theorizing an Environmental Politics

Posted: 22 Feb 2011

See all articles by Teena Gabrielson

Teena Gabrielson

University of Wyoming, Department of Political Science


Once identified with the deviant, the venomous, the profane -- we are all toxic now. Published in 2009 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Fourth Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals tracks human exposure in the United States to 212 environmental chemicals, 75 of which were measured for the first time. The study shows widespread exposure, over 90% of the samples taken, to Bisphenol A (BPA) and other perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) - the safety of which is currently a matter of growing controversy. In other recent research, newborn babies in the United States were found to have absorbed, on average, 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants into their bodies through their mother's wombs (Sze 2006). Many of the chemicals that now "accumulate in our fat, bones, blood and organs, or pass through us in breast milk, urine, feces, sweat, semen, hair and nails" are woven into our daily practices and the intimate spaces of our homes; they are present in our clothes, dishware, toys, and televisions (Baker 2008, 14). Further, many of these chemicals have been identified as endocrine-disruptors carrying profound effects for human and animal reproduction, fetal development, and cancer risks in later life. The normalized toxic body obscures the inside from outside, the subject from environment, the private from public, the natural from artificial; it bends gender and equalizes while still distinguishing the more vulnerable.

Suggested Citation

Gabrielson, Teena, The Normalized Toxic Body: a Site for Theorizing an Environmental Politics. Western Political Science Association 2011 Annual Meeting Paper , Available at SSRN:

Teena Gabrielson (Contact Author)

University of Wyoming, Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 3434 University Station
Laramie, WY
United States

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