Document Type



Stanford Environmental Law Journal




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.