The best exposés leave readers yearning to take action. This one will make them want to gnash their teeth and discard their...

POISONED PROFITS

THE TOXIC ASSAULT ON OUR CHILDREN

Two environmental journalists angrily assert that spineless politicians and lenient regulators defer to rapacious industrialists as their factories drench America in toxic pollutants.

The authors provide an avalanche of anecdotes featuring dreadfully sick children and their devastated parents appealing in vain to guilty industries and getting no help from mealy-mouthed officials. In chapter after chapter, they describe innumerable toxins, their poisonous effects, the researchers who study and denounce them, the regulators who sometimes act but mostly complain that their hands are tied and the industry representatives who defend their products, repeating ad nauseum that the evidence for harm is not conclusive. To those who assume scientists don’t know what causes most birth defects, cancers, allergies, asthma, Alzheimer’s, mental illness, attention-deficit disorder and premature births, this book offers the answer: pollution. Sadly, the Shabecoffs are preaching to the choir, pouring out so many horror stories that shell-shocked readers may grow annoyed with their bias. The authors treat industry representatives with the contempt they deserve, but not every victim or lawyer merits the respectful absence of skepticism accorded them here, and fringe groups given similar hands-off treatment include antifluoridation advocates and people who insist vaccines cause autism. The authors glide right over the unpalatable reality that industrial pollution is now so catastrophically severe that making the bad guys pay will not solve the problem. Taxpayers will end up funding the cleanup, and stricter regulation will mean more expensive goods. Politicians refuse to deliver this news because they want to be reelected, but the Shabecoffs don’t have this excuse. They conclude with sensible instructions for minimizing toxins within the household and good advice for regulatory reform, but neither is likely to improve our environment anytime soon.

The best exposés leave readers yearning to take action. This one will make them want to gnash their teeth and discard their plastic containers.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6430-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2008

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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

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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

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