The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment


The chemical pollution that irrevocably damages today's environment is, although many would like us to believe otherwise, the legacy of conscious choices made long ago. During the years before and just after World War II, discoveries like leaded gasoline and DDT came to market, creating new hazards even as the expansion and mechanization of industry exacerbated old ones. Dangers still felt today—smog, pesticides, lead, chromium, chlorinated solvents, asbestos, even global warming—were already recognized by ...

See more details below
Paperback (New Edition)
$18.26 price
(Save 8%)$19.95 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (7) from $10.79   
  • New (3) from $17.01   
  • Used (4) from $10.79   
The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99 price
(Save 15%)$12.99 List Price


The chemical pollution that irrevocably damages today's environment is, although many would like us to believe otherwise, the legacy of conscious choices made long ago. During the years before and just after World War II, discoveries like leaded gasoline and DDT came to market, creating new hazards even as the expansion and mechanization of industry exacerbated old ones. Dangers still felt today—smog, pesticides, lead, chromium, chlorinated solvents, asbestos, even global warming—were already recognized by chemists, engineers, doctors, and business managers of that era. A few courageous individuals spoke out without compromise, but still more ignored scientific truth in pursuit of money and prestige.

The Polluters reveals at last the crucial decisions that allowed environmental issues to be trumped by political agendas. It spotlights the leaders of the chemical industry and describes how they applied their economic and political power to prevent the creation of an effective system of environmental regulation. Research was slanted, unwelcome discoveries were suppressed, and friendly experts were placed in positions of influence, as science was subverted to serve the interests of business. The story of The Polluters is one that needs to be told, an unflinching depiction of the onslaught of chemical pollution and the chemical industry's unwillingness to face up to its devastating effects.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Seth Shulman
…extensively researched and accessible…The Polluters documents with well-chosen detail how the chemical industry managed for decades…to avoid and forestall federal environmental legislation despite the increasingly glaring need for it…this is little-known history that makes for fascinating reading.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"The engrossing, infuriating history of American pollution... An important, disheartening account of widespread willful ignorance."—Kirkus Reviews

"Startling, intense, and brilliantly elucidated... sharply relevant to the present-day disasters of the BP oil spill and the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion... an unlikely page-turner."—Booklist

"The Polluters documents how the strategies used by today's polluters to duck regulation of their toxic chemicals were pioneered by polluters who poisoned the American landscape and killed hundreds of Americans in the early twentieth century. For nearly one-hundred years, corporate polluters have subverted democracy and corrupted public officials to control government regulation of toxic chemicals maximizing profits at the expense of public health."—Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

"The Polluters is a readable, comprehensive and authoritative study of the history of pollution. No matter how much you think you know about this issue, you'll learn something from this book—and you'll be outraged as well as informed."—David Kusnet, Chief Speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, 1992-1994

"The Polluters is a fascinating account of how the polluters in this country got away with murder for decades. This book puts a name and face on the many polluters who knew for years the damage they were doing to the public's health and to the environment and unveils their efforts to cover up the effects of this pollution; a must for any activist who wants to understand the strategies these polluters used to continue business as usual."—Lois Gibbs, Executive Director, Center for Health, Environment & Justice

"The Polluters details how the chemical industry in the 20th century erected political and scientific barriers to government oversight by failing to test the toxicity of their compounds or, worse, keeping secret damning data about health risks of widely used and profitable chemicals."—Lyndsey Layton, Washington Post

"Ross and Amter are certainly not friends of the chemical companies, but they deserve credit for also being able to see things from the industry's standpoint... by taking us back to the period before the great environmental awakening, the book provides an invaluable historical perspective. There's no doubt from this saga that we still need strong government regulation: 100 years of experience shows that companies cannot be trusted to regulate themselves."—Chris Mooney, The American Prospect

"A remarkably timely, extensively researched, and accessible book offering a fresh perspective . . . This is little-known history that makes for fascinating reading."—The Washington Post

"Frustration. That is the best way to describe the experience of reading The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment. Page after page reveals the history of industries spewing toxins into our air, water, and soil and a government more apt to look the other way. Presenting the conflict through the lens of individual action and human cost, authors Benjamin Ross and Steven Amter provide an engaging and unsettling account of U.S. pollution."—

"The Polluters is a commendable effort to present the history of industrial environmental harm with candor and clarity in a readable, anecdotal form."—Chemical & Engineering News

"Keep moving if you're looking for a happy ending . . . But if you seek a knowing, readable chronicle of humanity's struggle to rein in its own mess-making, these 223 meticulously footnoted pages are, well, the bomb." —Lancaster Sunday News

"To write a history of industrial pollution, with a few shining exceptions, is largely to document its denial by both industry and government. That just the history Benjamin Ross and Steven Amter have given us in The Polluters, an amply footnoted but briskly readable new book published by Oxford University Press." —Dakota Resource Council

"[A] spellbinding and detailed compendium of corporate deceit and defiance that will leave readers fuming at the towering gall of the Polluting Class . . . The Polluters is brimful with decades of tales that will have readers grinding their teeth in indignation and frustration."
—Berkeley Daily Planet

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199930968
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 5/29/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,233,877
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Benjamin Ross is President of the Washington consulting firm, Disposal Safety, Inc. He is both environmental scientist and commentator on current affairs, and has served on committees of the National Academy of Sciences and the USEPA Science Advisory Board.

Steven Amter is a Senior Environmental Scientist at Disposal Safety, Inc. who specializes in the history of pollution.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - The Sorcerer's Apprentices

Part I - Summoning the Spirits

Chapter 2 - Pollution Goes to Washington
Chapter 3 - The Rise of the Chemical Industry
Chapter 4 - Royd Sayers' Service Bureau

Part II - Fetching a Flood

Chapter 5 - The Miracle Bug-Killer
Chapter 6 - Wilhelm Hueper and Environmental Cancer
Chapter 7 - Bad Air in Los Angeles
Chapter 8 - Donora's Strangler Smog
Chapter 9 - A New Deal for Clean Water
Chapter 10 - Deregulating California's Water
Chapter 11 - The Stealth Pollutants

Part III - Holding Back the Deluge

Chapter 12 - DuPont Tries to Clean Up
Chapter 13 - The Industry Responds
Chapter 14 - From Donora to Love Canal
Chapter 15 - Epilogue: Convenient Hopes and Inconvenient Truths

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 & 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 & 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 & 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 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 & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & 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 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
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    GREAT READ on the history and politics behind environmental pollution

    Ross and Amter do a superb job of tackling one of today's most toxic issues, the history and politics of environmental pollution. This book is both easy to follow and important to read. The information exposed in "The Polluters" will make you think about the climate of today's environmental policies and attitudes from oil drilling to water contamination. "The Polluters" reads with the same spark as Dave Eggers' "What is the What"-- both books are a compelling historical portrayal of a modern day issue that leaves the reader wanting to know: what can i do to help?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

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