Ian Shaw


TEDxChCh welcomes renowned toxicologist Ian Shaw. You may not yet be outraged at chemical-related occurrences such as the shrinking size of alligator penises (due to plastic factory contaminants in lake habitats) and the reduction of human sperm counts (linked to food and beverage packaging), but we’re betting you will be by the time Professor Ian Shaw is done speaking. It turns out our reproductive end may come in the form of plastic water bottles or tin cans, a far cry from a smoke-and fire-filled apocalypse!

As a professor at the University of Canterbury, Ian researches our future ability to procreate and prosper from the angle of endocrine disrupting chemicals in food. He says, “I am particularly interested in how these chemicals, which mimic hormones, affect human growth and development. Specifically, how bisphenol-A (used in plastics manufacture) may affect babies.” Ian behaves like a vegetarian butcher; he knows a little too much to enjoy the foods that we happily consume. According to the Otago Daily Times, he doesn’t microwave plastic containers or use cling film, relying upon greaseproof paper instead. However, even his trusty greaseproof paper has been under suspicion since his PhD student, with good-natured spite, informed him that certain types of greaseproof paper contain estrogenic chemicals.

Ian is well qualified to evaluate the safety of food packaging. He has a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry from the University of Bath, a PhD in Biochemistry (Toxicology) from the University of Birmingham, and was recently elected Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists. He has worked in academic, corporate pharmaceutical, and public health environments on the toxicity of anticancer drugs and food. Ian has shared his wealth of knowledge with the wider world through TV programmes (such as TVNZ’s Is it safe to eat?), radio interviews, and newspaper and magazine articles.