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Toxic & Persistent: How everyday chemicals perturb our bodies and our lives, and what can we do about it?

Devavani Chatterjea ’96, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
Macalester College

Ingredients added to household and commercial materials for our safety and convenience can have profound effects on our immune systems leading to acute and chronic illnesses. We found that exposure to the ubiquitous preservative methylisothiazolinone increased the risk of chronic pain in a pre-clinical study using a model organism. Sensitivity to methylisothiazolinone has also been identified in population-scale studies in Europe and associated with skin and respiratory injuries. Poly-fluoro-alkyl substances (PFAS) added to numerous products to make them resistant to water, heat, cold, and oils - food packaging, cosmetics, cleaners, outdoor gear, semiconductor resists, firefighting foam - persist in our bodies and in the environment, and are being increasingly linked with certain cancers, decreased vaccine responses, and liver disease. How do we navigate this complex and challenging landscape to reduce dependency on these chemicals that permeate nearly every aspect of our lives and chart a safer path forward?

Pizza will be served.

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  • Oleander Morrill
  • Aria Mallare

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