"It Doesn't Need to be Industrial Strength": An Analysis of Women's Adoption of a Chemical-Free Lifestyle

Vidug, Kristina
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University of Guelph

This thesis seeks to uncover women’s concerns about chemicals in the household, and, more specifically, in cleaning products. The research is based on semi-structured interviews with women who are primarily responsible for household cleaning and who consciously avoid conventional cleaning products. From a sociological standpoint, the topic remains unstudied. The women were critical of greenwashing and the institutions responsible for chemical regulation. Further, the women’s chemical-free lifestyle defied conventional definitions of activism. Sociological theories of risk are used to help understand women’s avoidance of chemicals. It was found that tenets of the precautionary principle were reflected in their reasoning for avoiding chemicals. Recent biomonitoring and body burden studies have influenced women’s knowledge of chemical risk and their decision to avoid them. The thesis demonstrates that risk-management, in this context, has become an individualized pursuit reflective of the neo-liberal ideology informing chemical regulation.

cleaning products, domestic work, conventional cleaning products, environmental activism, sociology of risk, risk, precautionary principle, biomonitoring, body burden, neo-liberalism, chemical regulation, green consumerism, precautionary consumption, inverted quarantine, recreancy, environmental risks, passive activism, relational activism, risk management, New Corporate Environmentalism, green capitalism, greenwashing, feminist methodology, reflexivity, positionality, women, chemicals, household, cleaning products, household cleaning