Carl Cranor



Distinguished Professor of Philosophy
Faculty Member of the Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program
Patricia McSweeny McCauley Chair in Teaching Excellence 2015-2016
UCR Distinguished Teaching Professor

Contact Information

HMNSS 3220


Ph.D., UCLA, 1971
M.S.L. (Master of Studies in Law), Yale Law School, 1981

Areas of Interest

Legal and moral philosophy, including issues concerning risks, science and the law, the regulation of carcinogens and developmental toxicants, and the use of scientific evidence in legal decisions.


Professor Cranor’s generic research interests are in legal and moral philosophy. Moral philosophers are typically educated to write, think and teach about actions, policies or states of affairs that are, inter alia, right, wrong, just or unjust. For twenty-five years Professor Cranor has focused on the morality, legality, and justice of exposure to toxic molecules that could threaten the public’s health. He has written widely on philosophic issues concerning risks, science and the law, – the use of scientific evidence in legal decisions for regulating carcinogens and developmental toxicants, the idea of acceptable risks, protection of susceptible populations, and how society might approach the regulation of new technologies and toxicants to better protect the public’s health. He is the author of Tragic Failures: How and Why We Are Harmed by Toxic Chemicals (Oxford, 2017), Legally Poisoned: How the Law Puts Us at Risk from Toxicants (Harvard, 2011, 2013), Regulating Toxic Substances: A Philosophy of Science and the Law (1993, 1997) and Toxic Torts: Science, Law and the Possibility of Justice (Cambridge, 2006, 2008), and Toxic Torts: Science Law and the Possibility of Justice, Second Edition (Cambridge, 2016), as well as co-authoring a report for the Office of Technology Assessment, Identifying and Regulating Carcinogens (1987), and a study by an Institute of Medicine Committee, Valuing Health: Cost Effectiveness Analysis for Regulation (2006). This research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the University of California Toxic Substances Research and Teaching Program. At the undergraduate level he has taught courses on ethics, political philosophy, law and society, legal philosophy, environmental ethics, Rawls, justice and utilitarianism, and a rare course in the history of philosophy. At the graduate level seminars have included justice, Rawls, Rawls and utilitarianism, philosophy of the tort law, legal philosophy, and the idea of acceptable risks. 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. Professor Cranor was the National Romanell-Phi Beta Kappa Professor in Philosophy for 2014-2015.

Selected Publications (from most recent)


  • Tragic Failures: How and Why We Are Harmed by Toxic Chemicals (Oxford University Press, 2017)
  • Toxic Torts: Science, Law and the Possibility of Justice, Second Edition (Cambridge University Press, 2016)
  • Legally Poisoned: How the Law Puts Us at Risk from Toxicants (Harvard University Press, 2011, 2013). Recent reviews (summarizing and assessing the content):
  • Toxic Torts: Science, Law and the Possibility of Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2006, 2007 (Paperback)). Recent reviews (summarizing and assessing the content):
  • Valuing Health: Cost Effectiveness Analysis for Regulation, Wilhelmine Miller, Lisa A. Robinson, and Robert S. Lawrence. Co-authors: Institute of Medicine Committee to Evaluate Measures of Health Benefits for Environmental, Health, and Safety Regulation: Robert S. Lawrence, Henry A. Anderson, Richard T. Burnett, Carl F. Cranor, Maureen Cropper, Norman Daniels, Dennis G. Fryback, Alan M. Garber, Mathe R. Gold, James K. Hammitt, Lisa I. Iezzoni, Peter D. Jacobson, Emmett Keeler, Willard G. Manning, Charles Poole, David A. Schkade, (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2006).
  • Are Genes Us? The Social Consequences of the New Genetics, ed. C. Cranor. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994) (271 pp.).
  • Regulating Toxic Substances: A Philosophy of Science and the Law. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 1997 (Paperback).
  • Eric Reichard, Carl Cranor, Robert Rancher, Giovanni Zapponi, Groundwater Risk Assessment: A Guide to Understanding and Managing Uncertainties (International Association of Hydrological Sciences, 1990).
  • Office of Technology Assessment, Identifying & Regulating Carcinogens (U.S. Government Printing Office, Nov. 1987) (co-author of the report).

       Articles (selected):

  • Ellen K. Silbergeld, Daniele Mandroli, Carl F. Cranor, Regulating Chemicals: Law, Science, and the Unbearable Burdens of Regulation, American Review of Public Health 36:175-191 (2015)
  • How the Law leads to Agnosticism about Risks from Industrial Chemicals, in Agnotology, (Forthcoming Oxford University Press, 2016).
  • “Justice, Environmental Health Laws and Relations Between People,” Ethics of Environmental Health, Ed. Friedo Zolzer (Forthcoming, Oxon, UK: Taylor and Francis, 2017).
  • “The Developmental Origins of Disease: Implications for Primary Prevention of Diseases in Children (and the Rest of Us),” the European Journal of Oncology ((2016).
  • ‘Why Chemical Risk Assessment Can Learn from Radiation risk Assessment,” in Social and Ethical Aspects of Radiation Risk Management, ed. Sven Ole Hansson and Deborah Oughton (Elsevier 2013), pp. 87-103.
  • Milward v. Acuity Specialty Products: Advances in General Causation Testimony in Toxic Tort Litigation,” Wake Forest Journal of Law and Policy, pp. 105-139 (2013).
  • “Protecting Early Warners and Late Victims in a Precautionary World?”. Late Lessons from Early Warnings: Science Precaution, Innovation, David Gee, ed. (European Environmental Agency, 2013), pp. 581-606.
  • “Assessing Genes as Causes of Human Disease in a Multi-causal World,” in Genetic Explanations: Sense and Nonsense, Eds. Sheldon Krimsky and Jeremy Gruber (Harvard University Press, 2013), pp. 107-121.
  • “Reckless Laws, Contaminated People: Science Reveals Legal Shortcomings in Public Health Protections,” in Powerless Science (Berghahn Books, 2013), ed. Soraya Boudia and Nathalie Jas, pp. 195-214.
  • “Toward a Premarket Approach to Risk assessment,” in Handbook on Risk Assessment, ed. Rafaela Hillebrand, Per Sandin, and Martin Peterson, Sabine Roeser and Lotte Asveld (Elesevier, 2011), pp. 27-39.
  • “Developing Science Challenges Torts: Can the Tort Law Retain a Central Legal Role?” Perspectives on Causation, ed. Richard Goldberg (Oxford, UK: Hart Publishing Co. 2011),  pp. 261-281.
  • “Collective and Individual Duties to Reduce Global Warming,” in Economic Thought and U.S. Climate Change Policy, ed. David M. Driesen, (Cambridge: MIT Press 2010),  p.153-169.
  • Amy Sinden and Carl Cranor,The Abandonment of Justice and Toward Distributional Justice,” in Economic Thought and U.S. climate Change Policy, ed. David M. Driesen, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010), pp. 237-255
  • “Scientific Sentinels: What Should Constitute Minimal Scientific Evidence for Identifying Substantial Public Health Problems?” 25th Anniversary Jubilee, Collegium Ramazzini Online Journal, October, 2008, 1-23, located at
  • “(Almost) Equal Protection for Genetically Susceptible Subpopulations: A Hybrid Regulatory-Compensation Proposal,” in Genomics and Environmental Policy, ed. Gary Marchant (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), pp. 267-289.
  • “Do You Want to Bet Your Children’s Health on Post-Market Harm Principles? An Argument for A Trespass or Permission Model for Regulating Toxicants, Villanova Environmental Law Journal XIX, Issue 2 (2008), pp. 251-314.
  • “Information Generation and Use Under Proposition 65: A Model for Other Post-market Laws? “Indiana Law Review, Vol. 83, No. 2 (2008), pp. 609-627.
  • “Risk Assessment, Susceptible Subpopulations and Environmental Justice,” in The Law of Environmental Justice, 2d Edition, ed. Michael B. Gerrard and Sheila Foster (The American Bar Association: 2008), pp. 341-394.
  • “The Legal Failure to Prevent Sub-clinical Toxicity,” Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology 102, No. 2 (February 2008), pp. 267-273.
  • “Scientific Sentinels: What Should Constitute Minimal Scientific Evidence for Identifying Substantial Public Health Problems?” 25th Anniversary Jubilee, Collegium Ramazzini Online Journal, October, 2008, 1-23.
  • “A Framework for Assessing Scientific Arguments: Gaps, Relevance, and Integrated Evidence,” in the Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. XV, No. 1, pp. 7-58 (2007).
  • “Toward a Non-Consequentialist Theory of Acceptable Risks,” in Risk and Philosophy, Rutledge, ed. Tim Lewens (2007), pp. 36-53.
  • “The Dual Legacy of Daubert v. Merrell-Dow Pharmaceuticals: Replacing Junk Science with Insidious Science,” in Rescuing Science from Politics, ed. Wendy Wagner and Rena Steinzor (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 120-142.
  • “Scientific Inferences in the Laboratory and the Law”, The American Journal of Public Health, Supplement I: Scientific Evidence and Public Policy 95, No. S1 (July 2005), pp. 46-57.
  • “The Science Veil over Toxic Tort Law: How Should Scientific Evidence Be Used in Toxic Tort Law?” in Law and Philosophy, 2004.
  • “Assessing Some of the Regulatory Approaches to Transgenic Plants: What Can We Learn from the Regulation of Other Technologies?” Envrionmental Biosafety Research 3 (2004) 29–43.
  • “Some Legal Implications of the Precautionary Principle: Improving Information Generation and Legal Protections,” the European Journal of Oncology, Library Vol. 2 (2003), pp. 31–51.
  • “Toward Understanding Aspects of the Precautionary Principle,” the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy (2004).
  • “How Should Society Approach the Real and Potential Risks Posed by New Technologies?” Editor’s Choice Series in Agricultural Ethics, Plant Physiology, pp. 3–9 (2003). [Invited]
  • “What Could Precautionary Science Be? Research for Early Warnings and a Better Future,” in Precaution: Environmental Science and Preventive Public Policy, ed. Joel A. Tickner ( Washington, D.C. : Island Press, 2003), pp. 305–320. [Invited]
  • “Learning from the Law to Address Uncertainty in the Precautionary Principle,” Science and Engineering Ethics, Vol. 7, (2001), pp. 313–326.
  • “The Regulatory Context for Environmental and Workplace Health Protections: Recent Developments,” The Blackwell Guide to Business Ethics, ed. Norman Bowie (Oxford, UK and Malden, Mass. : Blackwell Publishers, 2002), pp. 77–101.
  • “Scientific Ignorance and Reliable Patterns of Evidence in Toxic Tort Causation: Is There a Need for Liability Reform?” (with David A. Eastmond) Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol.64, No. 4 (Autumn 2001), pp. 5–48. [Invited].
  • “Asymmetric Information, the Precautionary Principle and Burdens of Proof in Environmental Health Protections,” Protecting Public Health and the Environment: Implementing the Precautionary Principle, ed. Carolyn Raffensperger and Joel Tickner (Washington, D.C., Island Press: 1999), pp. 74–99 [Invited].
  • “Discerning the Effects of Toxic Substances: Using Science without Distorting the Law” Jurimetrics: Journal of Law, Science and Technology 38, No. 3, pp. 545–552 (1998).
  • “Eggshell Skulls and Loss of Hair from Fright: Some Moral and Legal Principles that Protect Susceptible Subpopulations,” Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology, Vol. 4, pp. 239–245 (1997).
  • “The Normative Nature of Risk Assessment: Features and Possibilities,” 8 Risk: Health, Safety and Environment, pp. 123–136 (Spring 1997) [Invited].
  • “A Philosophy of Risk Assessment and the Law: A Case Study of the Role of Philosophy in Public Policy,” Philosophical Studies, Vol. 85, pp. 135–162 (1997).
  • “Judicial Boundary-Drawing and the Need for Context-Sensitive Science in Toxic Torts after Daubert v. Merrell-Dow Pharmaceutical “, (with David A. Eastmond and John G. Fischer), 16 The Virginia Environmental Law Journal, pp. 1–77 (1996).
  • “The Use of Comparative Risk Judgments in Risk Management,” in Toxicology and Risk Assessment: Principles, Methods and Applications, ed. Fan, A.M. and Chang, L.W. (Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1995), pp. 817–833.
  • “The Social Benefits of Expedited Risk Assessment,” Risk Analysis 15, No. 4, June, 1995, pp. 353–358.
  • “Improving the Regulation of Carcinogens by Expediting Cancer Potency Estimation,” with Sara M. Hoover, Lauren Zeise, William S. Pease, Louise E. Lee, Mark P. Henning, Laura B. Weiss, and Carl Cranor, Risk Analysis 15, No. 2, April, 1995, pp. 267–280.
  • “Learning from the Law for Regulatory Science,” Law and Philosophy 14, pp. 115–145 (1995).
  • “Genetic Causation,” in Are Genes Us? The Social Consequences of the New Genetics, ed. C. Cranor (Rutgers University Press, 1994) (pp. 125–141).
  • “Some Moral Issues in Risk Assessment,” Ethics, Vol. 101 (October 1990) pp. 123–143.
  • “Patenting Body Parts: A Sketch of Some Moral Issues,” in Owning Scientific and Technical Information: Values and Ethical Issues, ed. V. Weil and J. Snapper (Rutgers University Press, 1989). [Invited]
  • “Political Philosophy, Morality and the Law,” 95 The Yale Law Journal, pp. 1066–1086 (1986). [Invited]
  • “Collective and Individual Duties to Protect the Environment,” 2, The Journal of Applied Philosophy, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 243–259 (1985).
  • “Epidemiology and Procedural Protections for Workplace Health in the Aftermath of the Benzene Case,” 5 Industrial Relations Law Journal 372–401 (1984).
  • “On Respecting Human Beings as Persons,” 17, The Journal of Value Inquiry, pp. 103–177 (October 1983).
  • “Limitations on Respect-for-Persons Principle,” Tulane Studies in Philosophy, Vol, XXXI, pp. 45–60 (1982).
  • “Kant’s Respect-for-Persons Principle,” International Studies in Philosophy, pp. 19–39 (1980).
  • “Legal Moralism Reconsidered,” Ethics, Vol. 87, No. 2, pp. 147–164 (January 1979).
  • “Toward a Theory of Respect for Persons,” The American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp. 309–319 (October 1975)