THE TOXIC CLOUD by Michael H. Brown


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Here, Brown, the journalist who broke the Love Canal story, chronicles a tale of woe that finds nothing but toxicity to be breathed, eaten, or drunk anywhere in the US. One suspects overkill here, as in Brown's Laying Waste: The Poisoning of America by Toxic Chemicals (1980)--but apparently the author believes that extremism in the defense of clean air is no vice. Brown breaks his book into six sections corresponding to six geographic segments, none of which escapes the ravages of poisonous air. Even the pristine Midwest is rather ""like a huge pot that accepts what the West and South gives, mixes in its own formidable concoctions, and overflows with a nebulous broth."" Regarding air pollution, Brown worries over more than the normally perceived culprits such as carbon monoxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, etc. Suddenly, the invisible enemy is a chlorinated insecticide known as toxaphene, once written of as a ground danger by Rachel Carson, but now tracked into such paradises as Swedish lakes, the Tyrolean Alps, and even in Antarctic cod. Brown writes also of dioxin, second only in toxicity to botulinum. Two of the most easily produced defects caused by dioxin in test animals are cleft palate and urogenital defects. In Brown's research, those same defects are found in areas affected by dioxin at five times the normal rate. Despite his Chicken Little stance, Brown's points are well taken for any who can recall that it took only 11 days for Chernobyl's radioactive cloud to reach the continental US. Sledge-hammer reporting, then, but politically important all the same.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Harper & Row