WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 30 / 6:00 PM
The Commonwealth Club
555 Post Street
San Francisco, 94102
In a comprehensive and disturbing history of viscose rayon, or “fake silk,” Paul Blanc sheds light on the environmental and public health hazards of producing this ubiquitous textile. In Fake Silk: The Lethal History of Viscose Rayon, Blanc asks a fundamental question: When a new technology makes people ill, how high does the body count have to be before protective steps are taken?
This is a dark story of hazardous manufacturing, poisonous materials, environmental abuses, political machinations and economics trumping safety concerns. Blanc explores the century-long history of fake silk, which is used to produce products such as rayon textiles and tires, cellophane, and everyday kitchen sponges. He uncovers the grim history of a product that crippled and even served a death sentence to many industry workers while at the same time environmentally releasing carbon disulfide, the critical toxic component of viscose.