University of California, Riverside


Carl Cranor Carl Cranor Distinguished Professor of Philosophy

Topics: Chemicals in the Environment
Environmental Law

Preferred Media: Print, Radio, Video

Contact Card

Tel: (951) 827-2353

Media Contact: Tess Eyrich
Tel: (951) 827-1287


Carl Cranor Cranor is known globally for his research on the regulation of toxic substances, the ethics of risk, and the philosophy of law and science. His work has changed how scientific testimony is addressed in court cases as well as aspects of regulation in California. He is the author of “Legally Poisoned: How the Law Puts Us at Risk from Toxicants,” “Regulating Toxic Substances: A Philosophy of Science and the Law,”  and “Toxic Torts: Science, Law and the Possibility of Justice.” He co-authored a report for the Office of Technology Assessment, “Identifying and Regulating Carcinogens,” and a study by an Institute of Medicine Committee, “Valuing Health: Cost Effectiveness Analysis for Regulation.”  He has served on science advisory panels (California’s Proposition 65, Electric and Magnetic Fields, Nanotechnology, and Biomonitoring Panels) as well as on Institute of Medicine and National Academy of Sciences Committees.

On Chemicals in the Environment

Carl Cranor is available to talk about the need for federal and state agencies to regulate toxic exposure to humans. The current harm-based or risk-of-harm-based legal structure for regulating exposure to toxic substances is problematic, Cranor says. “Because most substances are subject to postmarket regulation, the existing legal structure results in involuntary experiments on citizens. The bodies of the citizenry are invaded and trespassed on by commercial substances, arguably a moral wrong.”

Exposures to toxicants in utero or post-natally can become biologically embedded in children’s or adult’s bodies resulting in diseases, dysfunctions, and sometimes premature death. The Centers for Disease Control reveals that we are all contaminated, including pregnant women and newborns. Postmarket regulations take too long to protect children from toxic industrial chemicals during sensitive developmental stages. Cranor argues that we must philosophically re-conceive the law-science relationship to require good premarket testing of compounds proposed for commercialization and enhanced postmarket testing of existing substances.

On Environmental Law

Current environmental laws enacted to protect the public’s health were based on the philosophy of older nuisance laws. These postmarket laws allow industrial chemicals to enter commerce without any legally required testing. Public health agencies can only protect the public’s health after there is evidence of risks or harms. When protective regulations fail, persons who have been wronged must rely on tort or personal injury law for remedies. Sluggish postmarket regulations likely permit more harm to the public than premarket laws. Three U.S. Supreme Court decisions changed how scientific testimony should be reviewed by courts to remedy injuries. Cranor will describe major events in the philosophic history of the use of scientific evidence in the tort law, ending with a salutary decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit, Milward v. Acuity Specialty Products (2011) that better protects the public. This major decision incorporated critical elements of Cranor’s research.

Cranor is available to address the philosophic adjudication of science and laws aimed at protecting the public’s health, and recommendations for improvements.