A useful warning against embarking on detoxification without medical supervision.

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TOXIN TOXOUT

GETTING HARMFUL CHEMICALS OUT OF OUR BODIES AND OUR WORLD

Canadian environmentalists Smith and Lourie collaborate again in a follow-up to Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Effects Our Health (2010).

As in their previous book, the authors offer themselves as guinea pigs. This time, they focus on “the multibillion-dollar detox industry.” In response to the intense interest” awakened by their previous investigation, they examine how the body can eliminate harmful toxins. Though Smith and Lourie welcome a long-term trend to reduce the pollutants in our environment, they respect their readers’ immediate concerns about health and vitality. To what extent can the body rid itself of the contaminants released by common household items, from pesticides to plastic containers, as well as preservatives in cosmetics and processed food? With a group of collaborators, they first compared ordinary cosmetic products to their green counterparts, using a multipart urine analysis. On the first day, in order to establish a base line, participants went cold turkey on cosmetics. On the second day, they used conventional products provided by the authors, followed by another cosmetic-free day and then a day using only green personal care items. The green products were clear winners, but as Lourie notes, despite our best efforts, we are “exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of potentially harmful chemicals.” Then the authors investigated the effectiveness of a variety of alleged detox mechanisms—e.g., fasting, chelation therapy, ionic footbaths, sauna therapy and more. Although ingesting chelating agents is a proven remedy for serious cases of heavy metal poisoning, the agents also remove important minerals from the body. Judging by the analysis of their own urine before and after, the authors found insignificant improvement in most cases, and they often experienced significant discomfort.

A useful warning against embarking on detoxification without medical supervision.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-05133-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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