Poisoned for Pennies: The Economics of Toxics and Precaution

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from BN.com
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $46.74
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 22%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (3) from $46.74   
  • New (2) from $57.14   
  • Used (1) from $46.74   


“Cost-benefit analysis” is a term that is used so frequently we rarely stop to think about it. But relying on it can lead to some dubious conclusions, as Frank Ackerman points out in this eye-opening book. For example, some economists have argued that states should encourage—and even subsidize—cigarette smoking by citizens because smoking will shorten life spans and therefore reduce the need and expense of caring for the elderly. How did the economists reach that conclusion? The answer is cost-benefit analysis, Ackerman explains.



Then in clear, understandable language, he describes an alternative, precautionary approach to making decisions under uncertainty. Once a mere theory, the precautionary principle has now been applied in practice through the European Union’s REACH protocol. Citing major studies, many of which he has directed, he shows that the precautionary approach has not only worked, but has been relatively cheap.



Poisoned for Pennies shows how the misuse of cost-benefit analysis is impeding efforts to clean up and protect our environment, especially in the case of toxic chemicals. According to Ackerman, conservatives—in elected office, in state and federal regulatory agencies, and in businesses of every size—have been able to successfully argue that environmental clean-up and protection are simply too expensive. But he proves, that is untrue in case after case.


Ackerman is already well known for his carefully reasoned attacks on the conventional wisdom about the costs of environmental regulation. This new book, which finds Ackerman ranging from psychological research to risk analysis to the benefits of aggressive pesticide regulation, and from mad cow disease to lead paint, will further his reputation as a thought leader in environmental protection. We can’t afford not to listen to him.


Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Executive Director, Center for Health, Environment and Justice - Lois Marie Gibbs
"This excellent book is a great tool for people fighting environmental hazards in their communities. Frank Ackerman shows us a valuable common-sense approach to capture the true costs of toxics in our society."
President, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange - Theo Colborn
"Ackerman reveals the fallacies of cost-benefit analysis that are just as diabolical as the fallacies of risk analysis, two constructs designed to protect the bottom line by devaluing the importance of human health. Vast tonnages of toxic chemicals will continue to be dispersed throughout the biosphere, and the pandemic of endocrine driven disorders will continue to increase as long as the U.S. continues to use these criteria to determine the safety of chemicals. Ackerman builds a convincing case for precaution and prevention."
Professor, University of Southern Denmark and Harvard School of Public Health - Philippe Grandjean
"Ackerman convincingly argues that mistakes measured in dollars can often be undone, but avoidable deaths can't. I would argue that ignoring this well-researched book would be a serious mistake that can't easily be undone."
science director, Science and Environmental Health Network - Ted Schettler
"A leader in environmental economics, Ackerman shows how sleights of hand and unsupported assumptions allow the health of many to be sacrificed for the profits of a few. In incisively clear prose, he makes the case for new ways of accounting in this global household that we manage for this and future generations."
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597264006
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2008
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Frank Ackerman is the director of the Research and Policy Program at the Global Development and the Environment Institute at Tufts University. He is the author of Why Do We Recycle? (Island Press) and Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing (with Lisa Heinzerling). He has conducted research for many environmental groups, including Greenpeace, Riverkeeper, and the Farmworker Justice Fund.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Pricing the Priceless
Chapter 2. Was Environmental Protection Ever a Good Idea?
Chapter 3. The Unbearable Lightness of Regulatory Costs
Chapter 4. Precaution, Uncertainty, and Dioxin
Chapter 5. The Economics of Atrazine
Chapter 6. Ignoring the Benefits of Pesticides Regulation
Chapter 7. Mad Cows and Computer Models
Chapter 8. Costs of Preventable Childhood Illness
Chapter 9. Phasing Out a Problem Plastic
Chapter 10. The Costs of REACH
Chapter 11. Impacts of REACH on Developing Countries
Chapter 12. How Should the United States Respond to REACH?
Conclusion: Economics and Precautionary Policies
Appendix A: Outline of the Arrow-Hurwicz Analysis
Appendix B: The Fawcett Report on Atrazine Research
Appendix C: How Not to Analyze REACH: The Arthur D. Little Model
Appendix D: U.S. Impacts of REACH: Methodology and Data

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)