By exploring litigation and regulation on toxic actants in East Asian countries, this panel examines following questions: What are the effects of the class actions on state regulations? What other forms of social mobilization can create more appropriate and efficient regulation?
State regulation is supposed to control industrial toxicants at the national level while the Basel Convention is meant to regulate their transfer at the international level. These regulations however bear many loopholes that litigation can redress or challenge. From a STS perspective, Sheila Jasanoff's Science at the Bar has offered a stimulating theoretical frame to think of the role of experts in toxic torts. Jasanoff has further argued that asbestos litigation in the United States have relied heavily on litigation to find remedies, that lawsuits have forced the US court system to perform the redistributive functions of a welfare state, only at a higher cost. This assertion needs to be discussed in particular from different legal contexts like Europe or East Asia. In Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, and in China, the victims of industrial toxicants and their supporters have developed their own culture of seeking justice through class action. But like in Western Europe and the US, those legal battles face considerable obstacles to prove causality between exposure to these toxicants and the occurrence—after a long latency—of measurable effects like cancers. To complicate the matter further, the polluting firms spend millions in the "production of ignorance." If class actions bring hope to the victims, what are the effects of these class actions on the long haul and on a larger scale, at an institutional level, in other words, on regulation? If not, what other forms of social mobilization can create more appropriate and efficient regulation?