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Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry Hardcover – September 7, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-1597263702 ISBN-10: 1597263702 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Shearwater; 2 edition (September 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597263702
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597263702
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,512,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"There are enough environmental problems that seem insoluble… Elizabeth Grossman has given us this chronicle of a field with a bright future, the green chemistry that will replace the crude methods of the 19th century with the smart ones of the 21st. She tells us how it could happen—we should listen carefully!"
(Bill McKibben author of The End of Nature and Deep Economy)

"As much as we have to fear from climate change, what scares me just as much is the vast number of untested substances we dump into the environment each year in huge quantities and with unknown effects. Only a small cadre of chemists really understands this problem and what to do about it. With Chasing Molecules, Elizabeth Grossman gives us the first book to tell their story. A tireless investigative journalist, she expertly distills the science of green chemistry and the promise it holds for a healthier world."
(Paul R. Ehrlich coauthor of The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment)

"Grossman profiles the worst offenders, including bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, but she also portrays the good guys who are coming to the rescue, John Warner and Paul Anastas, founders of the burgeoning green chemistry movement. Green chemistry aims to replace hazardous synthetic chemicals with chemicals that are 'benign by design.' Grossman's clarion expose should give this lifesaving initiative a big boost."

"I couldn't put this book down. I began reading before bedtime, finished as the first birds began singing, and felt a whole new world had been revealed to me. Chasing Molecules is the most important book I've read in ten years."
(Sandra Steingraber biologist and author of Living Downstream)

About the Author

Elizabeth Grossman is the author of High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health, Watershed: The Undamming of America, and Adventuring Along the Lewis and Clark Trail. Her writing has appeared in Mother Jones, The Nation, Salon, The Washington Post, and other publications. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By UC Berkeley Health Educator on February 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I co-authored a day-long UC Berkeley/UCLA training curriculum, Decoding Green Chemistry for Workers, funded by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. Among the scientists I consulted during development were Dr. Michael Wilson at the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry, and Dr. Julia Quint, former Chief of HESIS (California's Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service. Both are members of California's Green Ribbon Science Panel. Chasing Molecules was essential in translating complex scientific information, principles, and case studies into clear, understandable, relevant,and downright fascinating material. We drew from both its language and content to design a training that brought the excitement of green chemistry to those that are among the most vulnerable population to long-term toxic chemical exposure. The workers we trained were interested and highly motivated to explore the practical applications of green chemistry after our workshop, and much of that is due to the framework provided by Grossman's book. It is a thoroughly researched work and has been instrumental in our promoting our understanding of the issue as public health professionals. Anecdotally, I spoke with a Berkeley PhD chemist specializing in green chemistry research that has personally recommended Chasing Molecules to both his chemist and non-chemist communities. It's an excellent resource and extremely accessible.
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22 of 29 people found the following review helpful By New Jersey Scientist on September 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is obviously written by a person with no qualification about an important subject that is central to our modern society. The author tried to expose the problems with many of the chemicals used in our daily lives, including BPA, phthalates, Teflon, nano-material, etc. Unfortunately, most of the the material in this book are old, extremely superfacial and poorly organized. The last chapter "Toward a Greening of Chemistry" cited extensively the research work of one professor, whom, I suspect, maybe the only person the author spoke to. As a result, the book missed the large amount of real progress in sustainable and beneficial green chemistry. Most unfortunately, the author took up a very early academic study, poly-thymine, as a likely next generation material, simply because thymine is a natural-occuring material, present in all living cell, and talked up by this one professor. This "advocacy" approach easily lead the public into a dangerous path. The author used cosmetics as an example for our daily use of unsafe chemicals, and promoted the use of alternative chemicals in cosmetics. She sourly missed an opportunity to educate the reader for the advantage of reduction and elimination of cosmetics. What a sad loss of opportunity. The writing is tortuous with many extraneous personal tibits. The book, with more than 200 pages, added nothing new, nothing educational and nothing insightful. Skip it.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By env studies program director on February 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Renowned environmental journalist Elizabeth Grossman has given us a well-researched, thoughtful, and beautifully written introduction to the emerging world of "green chemistry." In the tradition of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, Chasing Molecules takes the reader into the dazzling and often puzzling domain of chemical manufacturing and product-creation. Her book directly addresses questions of consumer safety and environmental concern associated with the use of dozens of products we take for granted -- plastic toys, water bottles, sunscreen, athletic shoes, computers, and much of the packaging that comes with them. Her account is sober but never polemical. Despite what a few others have said about this book, it is not an example of uninformed advocacy journalism; rather, it is a patient, detailed account of the many pathways through which brand new chemical substances -- molecules -- enter into our bodies and into the waterways, soil, air sheds, and living tissue that surrounds us in the natural and agricultural environment. But Chasing Molecules does not seek to deliver another doom-and-gloom warning from the annals of old-testament environmentalism. Rather, the heart of the book is its interesting and at times inspiring investigation of "green chemistry," the nascent attempt by a number of scientists and companies to make modern products and conveniences safer and more readily digestible by ancient planetary processes. Not surprisingly, Grossman and her book remind us of the Rachel Carson saga in at least one other way as well: Chasing Molecules has raised the ire of a few establishment advocates who may rightly fear a book so well-written and well-researched. The book may or may not prove to be a classic in the mold of Silent Spring, but it surely stands among the best recent contributions to our understanding of environmental chemistry.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ted Smith on February 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Grossman has become one of the preeminent independent science writers of our era, bringing much needed and timely insight to one of most vexing challenges of the 21st century - how to prevent the devastating and growing public and environmental health impacts of the unprecedented growth of synthetic chemicals, in our workplaces, our communities and in our bodies. In "Chasing Molecules" she shows us that she's done her homework and demonstrates her vast knowledge of the subject matter along with a keen intelligence that not only makes the connections visible and understandable, but does so in language that is clear and offers a clarion call for action.

Ted Smith, Founder and former Executive Director of Silcon Valley Toxics Coalition; Coordinator of International Campaign for Responsible Technology; and co-autor of "Challenging the chip: labor rights and environmental justice in the global electronics industry" - [...]
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