My current book project, “Toxic Discretion,” examines how corporations leverage power and circumvent responsibility through the case of global PFAS contamination. I link contemporary corporate behavior to colonial and racial capitalist lineages, arguing such lineages imbue the corporate form with particular capacities to produce harm, claim virtue, and undermine accountability.
Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
As a collaborator with the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI) and the Silent Spring Institute, I conduct research and writing on the social and scientific discovery of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). In the PFAS lab group, we produce a range of public-oriented materials and tools on this emergent class of concern: a PFAS contamination tracking database, an interactive map of national PFAS contamination (developed with the Environmental Working Group), interactive historical timelines of PFAS contamination sites, and current media coverage of this global contaminant of concern. In April 2020, we wrote an article reflecting on our collaboration with the Environmental Working Group, and the impact of our collaborative map on the formation of PFAS contamination as a national crisis.
In both 2017 and 2019, our lab organized national PFAS conferences in partnership with the Silent Spring Institute, Testing for Pease, and the Toxics Action Center. The conferences have been funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Presentation recordings and powerpoint slides are available online. Our work on PFAS has been covered in media outlets such as The Intercept, Politico, and The New York Times.
“Toxic Docs” PFAS Collection
In partnership with Columbia University and the City College of New York’s Toxic Docs project, I helped launch a database of thousands of PFAS-related documents, including internal industry memos and documents from corporate archives. These materials are now available for the first time online and in an electronically searchable format, including the contents of a major EPA Docket (AR-226) on PFAS compounds and their suspected health effects.
ASA Racial Equity Committee
In 2016 Elisabeth Wilder (Northeastern University), Michael Mascarenhas (UC Berkeley), and I founded the Racial Equity Task Force in the American Sociological Association Section on Environmental Sociology. With our committee members Jennifer Carrera (Michigan State University) and Raoul Lievanos (University of Oregon), we have conducted surveys and focus groups within the section, in addition to writing an article in the section newsletter on demographic changes in our section over time. In August 2018, we organized an ASA pre-conference, “Bridging the Gap: Race and Environment” at Temple University, funded by the National Science Foundation. We recently published a special issue of Environmental Sociology on future directions in research on race and the environment.
Environmental Data and Governance Initiative
The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) formed in 2016 to analyze and preserve environmental data in the U.S. EDGI archives government data, archives federal websites, interviews regulatory staff, and promotes the concept of environmental data justice. I contributed to EDGI public reports (The EPA Under Siege) and academic publications in the American Journal of Public Health.