Can pollution affect the way hormones work in our bodies? A growing number of young people in France are responding: definitely yes.
Scientific studies, news articles, environmental health groups and concerned citizens increasingly claim that prolonged exposure to the products of industrial society – including plastics, detergents, pesticides, colorants and food additives – can interfere with hormonal functioning and may well be linked to the rise of chronic diseases ranging from infertility and asthma to obesity and ADHD. My ethnographic research focuses on how young people in France understand, create and share information on endocrine disruptors (chemicals that interfere with hormonal functioning) and how this knowledge informs their everyday lives.
To keep endocrine disruptors away from their bodies and living spaces, my informants make their own cleaning products, replace plastic with glass, go off the contraceptive pill, cook pesticide-free meals, and engage in environmental activism, both online and through grassroots theatre and workshops. Their everyday practices and political engagement reveal how they understand endocrine disruptors and raise important questions: why are endocrine disruptors in the products we commonly use? Who decides they should be there? And, most importantly, what can be done to change this?
The members of the youth environmentalist group Génerations Cobayes are key actors of this ethnographic research. The booklet Carnet de Voyage Tour de France de l'Eco Orgasme is one collaborative fruit of this interaction.