Controlling Toxic Harms: The Struggle Over Dioxin Contamination in the Pulp and Paper Industry

77 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2012

See all articles by William Boyd

William Boyd

University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: June 7, 2012


This essay addresses the challenges of controlling toxic harms through an intensive case study of efforts to regulate and remedy dioxin contamination in the U.S. pulp and paper industry. By focusing on the struggle to control a specific toxic harm in a specific industrial sector, the essay explores the politicized nature of toxic harms in the United States and, in the process, highlights the considerable shortcomings of existing legal frameworks and institutions for dealing with problems of such scope and complexity. In doing so, the essay raises a host of normative issues regarding current institutional arrangements and the appropriate strategy for dealing with toxic harms. While both tort law and the existing regulatory system will undoubtedly have a place in efforts to deal with toxic harms, the dioxin case study demonstrates that neither has proven particularly adept at achieving the respective goals of compensation, deterrence, and pollution control in a timely and cost-effective manner. In response to such shortcomings, the essay discusses several recent innovations in environmental policy that provide a possible basis for developing a more coherent and effective approach.

Keywords: Environmental law, tort law, toxics, risk regulation

JEL Classification: K13, K32, K33, L73, Q23, Q25, Q28

Suggested Citation

Boyd, William, Controlling Toxic Harms: The Struggle Over Dioxin Contamination in the Pulp and Paper Industry (June 7, 2012). Stanford Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 21, No. 345, 2002; U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-08. Available at SSRN:

William Boyd (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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