ALLERGIC TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

THE EXPLOSION IN ENVIRONMENTAL ALLERGIES--FROM SICK BUILDINGS TO MULTIPLE CHEMICAL SENSITIVITY

An investigation into the phenomenon of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), a condition that, like chronic fatigue syndrome, is regarded with considerable skepticism by much of the mainstream medical community. Science writer Radetsky, a regular contributor to Discover magazine, interviewed sufferers, activists, so-called environmental physicians, and a variety of traditional medical specialists to probe the nature of this controversial new illness and how it's being treated. His depiction of the extreme steps taken by some to create safe, toxin-free environments for themselves—porcelain sleeping cubicles, aluminum-foil-lined rooms, water-filled moats- -makes it easy to see why they have often been dismissed as obsessive, if not paranoid, hypochondriacs. While environmental physicians are convinced that MCS is a valid disease caused by exposure to chemicals in the environment, most conventional allergists see it as a psychological problem. Radetsky talks to a psychologist who treats it with traditional psychotherapy in combination with relaxation, feedback, and other approaches; an immunologist who sees it as the first symptom of serious autoimmune disorders, such as lupus; a pulmonary specialist who views it as a respiratory disorder; and a psychiatrist who hypothesizes that it is a physiological illness involving the brain's limbic system. While most MCS sufferers are white, middle-class, middle-aged women, Radetsky notes that Gulf War syndrome, whch has virtually identical symptoms, is overwhelmingly an affliction of young, active men, a fact that he feels may give MCS some credibility as a genuine disease. Needed now, he says, are controlled clinical studies to determine the cause of chemical sensitivity, plus some serious measures to clean up the environment. An appendix lists support groups, environmental consultants, and sources of safe products. MCS sufferers may see this as another Silent Spring, but the AMA will take more persuading. (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 2, 1997

ISBN: 0-316-73221-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more