Fuller's an author driven to disaster and melodrama, viz., his books on Africa's deadly new virus, Lasso fever, and the meltdown in a nuclear reactor (We Almost Lost Detroit, 1975)--a track record which shouldn't detract from this horrific tale of the chemical plague that in July, 1976, rained down on the small Italian town of Seveso in the Lombardy region. Something had gone wrong at the nearby Swiss-owned Icmesa chemical factory and a large gray cloud drifted toward town, covering the vegetable gardens with white crystals that later changed to a glossy sheen. . . . The chemical in question was dioxin, unwanted by-product of trichlorophenol (TCP), the active ingredient in a Vietnam defoliant and FDA-banned hexachloraphene, once used in skin ointments. Fuller follows the scientific and medical detection which began as soon as dead birds began tumbling from the sky and chickens and rabbits died by the coopful. Fourteen days later the town was sectioned off and the parts most contaminated ordered evacuated, perhaps forever. The enormity of the disaster was difficult to comprehend as Milan medical teams reeled under the knowledge that dioxin was so toxic that ""one part in a million"" was considered highly dangerous; eventual side effects, already gruesomely evident in the animal population, included birth defects, destruction of kidneys and liver, cancer, skin lesions, and a repulsive form of acne. Small wonder the incident came to be known as an ""Italian Hiroshima."" Fuller's account, while terse, is not sensationalized beyond what the ghastly evidence warrants.