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LAYING WASTE: The Poisoning of America by Toxic Chemicals by Michael Brown Kirkus Star

LAYING WASTE: The Poisoning of America by Toxic Chemicals


Pub Date: May 12th, 1980
Publisher: Pantheon

Love Canal is merely the tip of the deadly iceberg; chemical wastes have injured and perhaps killed people all around the country. Journalist Michael Brown (whose Niagara Falls newspaper balked when he began concentrating on the local hazard) starts his grim tour with hometown corporate and municipal malfeasance: Hooker Chemical dumping pesticide and plastic residues into Love Canal and deeding the land to the Board of Education; children playing there despite sneezing and skin eruptions; town officials eager to placate Hooker, the big employer; more than 100 families eventually forced from their homes by toxic canal waters; and extreme rates of miscarriage and birth defects noted in the area. Brown shows us additional New York and Michigan examples of Hooker's ""arrogant disregard of the public welfare,"" followed by other corporate chemical atrocities in Iowa, Tennessee, New Jersey (the nation's most serious ground pollution), Louisiana, California, and Maryland. Illegal dumping is another problem, but, Brown points out, many legal landfills, established out of ""economic and political expediency,"" are ""inadequately sealed against rainfall and exposed underneath to flowing aquifiers""--though 80 percent of municipal water systems depend entirely on ground water. Brown looks briefly too at ""radwaste,"" concluding that no final solution yet exists for dealing with nuclear residues, and he studies EPA's weak guidelines--a regulatory failure dubbed ""garbagegate"" by one official. For the future, Brown urges more waste incineration centers to reduce what goes into landfills, and (idealistically) reduced production of toxic substances. The most complete coverage yet of a significant story, and shocking in its very universality.