Toxic Drift: Pesticides and Health in the Post-World War II South

Overview

Following World War II, chemical companies and agricultural experts promoted the use of synthetic chemicals as pesticides on weeds and insects. It was, Pete Daniel points out, a convenient way for companies to apply their wartime research to the domestic market. In Toxic Drift, Daniel documents the particularly disastrous effects this campaign had on the South's public health and environment, exposing the careless mentality that allowed pesticide application to swerve out of control. The quest to destroy pests, ...

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Overview

Following World War II, chemical companies and agricultural experts promoted the use of synthetic chemicals as pesticides on weeds and insects. It was, Pete Daniel points out, a convenient way for companies to apply their wartime research to the domestic market. In Toxic Drift, Daniel documents the particularly disastrous effects this campaign had on the South's public health and environment, exposing the careless mentality that allowed pesticide application to swerve out of control. The quest to destroy pests, Daniel contends, unfortunately outran research on insect resistance, ignored environmental damage, and downplayed the dangers of residue accumulation and threats to fish, wildlife, domestic animals, and humans. Using legal sources, archival records, newspapers, and congressional hearings, Daniel constructs a moving, fact-filled account of the use, abuse, and regulation of pesticides from World War II until 1970.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Daniel exposes corporate cupidity, bureaucratic ineptitude and the harm that results when businesses dictate their own regulations in this book on the cozy relationship between chemical companies, agribusiness and the USDA during the 1960s and '70s. The Agricultural Research Service arm of the USDA promoted insect eradication with pesticides, even when an insect, such as the fire ant, was beneficial in controlling other harmful insects. The spraying itself was dangerous: Daniel, a curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, tells of accidental poisonings and wildlife and livestock kills. A case study of one unsuccessful suit demonstrates how difficult it was for pesticide victims to battle the combined forces of government and industry. Eventually, thousands of complaints, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and a damaging congressional hearing led to a change of attitude at the ARS, though pesticide problems continue. Daniel's rhetoric is sometimes heated, characterizing bureaucrats as bumbling and scientists as hubristic, but he has evidence to back it up. He raises tantalizing if unanswered questions about how the chemical industry was able to have such influence on agricultural policy when there were less noxious solutions. This book has plenty of data for the historian, but a deeper story is waiting to be told. 19 b&w photos. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Pete Daniel is the author of Lost Revolutions: The South in the 1950s, winner of the Elliott Rudwick Award of the Organization of American Historians; Breaking the Land: The Transformation of Cotton, Tobacco, and Rice Cultures since 1880, winner of the Herbert Feis Award of the American Historical Association and the Charles S. Sydnor Award of the Southern Historical Association; and Standing at the Crossroads: Southern Life in the Twentieth Century, among other books. He is the president of the Southern Historical Association for 2005-2006 and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Smithsonian Institution. A native of North Carolina, he is a curator at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History and lives in Washington, D.C.

Pete Daniel is the author of Lost Revolutions: The South in the 1950s, winner of the Elliott Rudwick Prize, and Standing at the Crossroads: Southern Life in the Twentieth Century, among other books. He is a curator at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History and lives in Washington, D.C.

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