When Smoke Ran like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle against Pollution

When Smoke Ran like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle against Pollution

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by Devra Davis
     
 

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The National Book Award Finalist from a leading public-health expert, this is the unknown story of how environmental pollution has affected our health-past, present, and future.

In When Smoke Ran Like Water, the world-renowned epidemiologist Devra Davis confronts the public triumphs and private failures of her lifelong battle against environmental pollution.

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Overview

The National Book Award Finalist from a leading public-health expert, this is the unknown story of how environmental pollution has affected our health-past, present, and future.

In When Smoke Ran Like Water, the world-renowned epidemiologist Devra Davis confronts the public triumphs and private failures of her lifelong battle against environmental pollution. She documents the shocking toll of a public-health disaster-300,000 deaths a year in the U.S. and Europe from the effects of pollution-and asks why we remain silent. For Davis, the issue is personal: Pollution is what killed many in her family and forced some of the others, survivors of the 1948 smog emergency in Donora, Pennsylvania, to live out their lives with impaired health. She describes that episode and also makes startling revelations about how the deaths from the London smog of 1952 were falsely attributed to influenza; how the oil companies and auto manufacturers fought for decades to keep lead in gasoline, while knowing it caused brain damage; and many other battles. When Smoke Ran Like Water makes a devastating case for change.

Author Biography: Devra Davis's work as a leading epidemiologist and researcher on the environmental causes of breast cancer and chronic disease has made her a nationally known figure. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and an M.P.H. from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Formerly a Scholar in Residence at the National Academy of Sciences and a member of the National Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board under President Clinton, she is now a Visiting Professor of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Davis, one of the world's leading epidemiologists and researchers on environmentally linked illness, writes about her lifelong battle against environmental pollution in strong prose, underlined with some horrifying stories. With a special emphasis on air pollution and its long-term effects, Davis anecdotally talks about some of the most infamous smogs and fogs of all time, including the Donora Fog (October 26, 1948) that left a small zinc-factory town in Pennsylvania blanketed in a thick, toxic fog for over a week. "Within days, nearly half the town would fall ill" and within one 24-hour period 18 people had died. She argues that these incidents are underreported because the industries responsible for the pollutants are often powerful corporations or the major employer in these small towns. Research into the long-term effects of pollution, such as breast and testicular cancer, reveals that people in the Northeast (including Long Island and Connecticut) and in California have a higher incidence of serious illnesses. Most importantly, Davis brings to the fore the long-lasting effects of growing up and living in a polluted atmosphere, clearly demonstrating that "people living in areas with the dirtiest air had the highest risk of dying." She sounds the warning bell loud and clear: the threat to public health is real. This is an enlightening, engrossing read (with an intro by Gaynor, a leading oncologist at the Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York City), which should be on the shelf of anyone who cares about the environment and wants to learn more about policy, health and politics; Davis weaves all of these together with grace. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Epidemiologist Davis documents the struggle to force the auto, oil, coal, and chemical industries to come to terms with the environmental consequences of their unregulated release of toxic substances into our air and water-in particular high cancer rates, heart and lung diseases, infertility, brain damage, and death. She sets the stage by describing the perpetual health problems and deaths in her home town of Donora, PA, caused by toxins from coal, steel, and zinc processing. Her accounts of the devastating black smog that blanketed the town for several days in 1948 and other black smogs in Liege, London, and Los Angeles reveal the global nature of the problem. This is an expos on how industrial polluters deceived the public, belittled scientists and academics, and pressured government agencies to stifle regulations. Davis acknowledges that today's environmental regulations are a tribute to those who fought the polluters and demanded change, but the battle continues. Recommended for all environmental and public health collections; for additonal coverage of this issue, see also Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner's Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution and Sandra Steingraber's Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment.-Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., New York Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465015214
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
11/05/2002
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.58(h) x 1.21(d)

What People are saying about this

John Topping
"Following in the tradition of the great science writers, from Aristotle to Steven Jay Gould, Davis has produced a sizzling rendering . . . This is simply the best book on the environment since Silent Spring . . . I honestly could not put it down." -- John Topping, President, Climate Institute
Weil
"Devra captures our imaginations and makes us think differently about the environment and health."

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