THE BITTER HARVEST by Frederic & Sandra Halbert


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As a record of the detection required to identify polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) contamination in Michigan in 1974, this is a we-were-there effort which chronicles the elusive particulars as well as a lot of trivia. The Halbert dairy farm was the first to call attention to the signs--initially, a dip in milk production-and press for an investigation. Rick Halbert, formerly a Dow Chemical engineer, found that most bureaucrats showed brief interest and then brushed the matter aside. But his cows kept failing, their feed killed off test animals, and he persevered for nine months--a tenacious quest, which his wife documents along with her chest pains and anxiety attacks, his bad temper, and too many other family circle inconsequentials. Ultimately, the culprit was tracked down--a fire retardant inadvertently mixed with cattle feed--and more than 30,000 animals were slaughtered, buried in a mass grave. But that wasn't the end of it, and here, again, the book could use more shaping and direction. Four years later, PBB still contaminates cows in dairy farms, rabbits and deer in surrounding areas, house-furnace filters, and human systems--the sources of residual contamination are difficult to locate or extinguish. The feed and chemical companies responsible have paid out close to $40 million in compensation but the larger issues remain. . . and remain virtually undiscussed here. An inside view which unnecessarily shadows the central concern with family incidentals.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1978
Publisher: Eerdmans