Nancy Langston, environmental historian at Michigan Technological University, will give a lecture in the Program in the History of Medicine’s lunchtime lecture series on her current research on environmental health and environmental policy in the Great Lakes region. This event is co-sponsored by the Wangensteen Historical Library and the Environmental Humanities Initiative. The lecture will take place 12:20-1:10 pm and will be followed by a graduate student workshop at 1:30 pm.
As Flint has made all too clear, exposure to water-borne toxic chemicals is not equitably distributed across human communities in the Great Lakes. Because consumption of fish is an important vector of human exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, Indigenous communities with high levels of fish consumption face particular risks of exposure to toxic chemicals. Many endocrine-disrupting chemicals move from their sites of production and consumption into much broader and dispersed spaces, making their regulation challenging. As they move into water, they bioaccumulate in fish, and eventually make their way into the people who eat that fish. In Canada and the United States, governments address the potential risks posed by endocrine disruptor contamination in fish by issuing fish advisories based on quantitative risk assessment protocols. Indigenous communities suspicious of these risk assessments have typically been dismissed as ignorant and excluded from the decision-making process. This talk uses the history of toxic fish to explore the relationships between risk, regulation, and Indigenous communities in the Great Lakes.