We will critically examine 'toxic expertise', debates by 'experts' (scientific, legal, economic, and civil) about the 'toxic'. Toxic substances are ever-present in modern day life. They are matters of public concern because of their effects on health and the environment. Yet toxicity is difficult to measure, and evident at very different levels and doses.
We focus our attention on the global petrochemical industry, which is important for numerous essential everyday goods, underpins urban infrastructure and transport, and provides millions of jobs. Yet petrochemicals are highly toxic, and thus they need to be handled with care, to prevent or at least minimize their potentially harmful effects.
This research provides the first systematic social scientific study of the global petrochemical industry in relation to corporate social responsibility and environmental justice, responding to calls for the ‘democratisation’ of science to make it more transparent and accountable.
This mixed method comparative research will be conducted in three stages. The first stage will examine leading global petrochemical companies and environmental NGOs in Europe, North America, and China. The second stage will focus on in-depth case studies in the United States and China, two of the top petrochemical producers and comsumers in the world. The third stage will develop an international public resource of toxic expertise to develop accessible information and tools for understanding, monitoring, and reporting toxic pollutants and their health impacts.