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How Everyday Products Make People Sick: Toxins at Home and in the Workplace 1st Edition

12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520248823
ISBN-10: 0520248821
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Editorial Reviews


“A superbly researched and scholarly book that traces the history of the author’s selection of relatively well-known occupational hazards.”
(Occupational & Environmental Medicine 2008-01-01)

From the Inside Flap

“A superb tool for making our homes, finally, a safe place to raise children.”—Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., author of Crimes Against Nature and St. Francis of Assisi.

“This is the work of a lifetime, one sure to be a classic for future lifetimes. Thirty years ago, Paul Blanc educated me about the threat of cancers caused by corporate and government negligence. Now he tells a great, entertaining and shocking story, based on a vast knowledge of science, government regulation, history and popular culture that shows our personal dependency and the almost-forsaken cause of public health."—Tom Hayden, former chairman, committee on natural resources, California state senate.”

"A masterful synthesis of some of the very heated and critical environmental and occupational health issues of our time. Paul Blanc offers a grounded look at the long term history of industrial disease, and the toxic environment in which we now live -- something that has been overlooked in discussions of the rise of the modern environmental movement."—David Rosner, author of Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution and co-author of Are We Ready? Public Health Since 9/11.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 374 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (January 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520248821
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520248823
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,939,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Lover of Good Books on May 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
Some imbecile at the publishing company gave this book what they must have thought was a trendy title. By doing that, they missed the market for what turns out to be one of the most interesting history books I've read all year--and I read a lot of history.

What this book really is, is a history of how changes in industrial processes have had unintended health consequences. It also documents the political and social forces that have kept the health consequences of these various chemicals from being known and regulated.

All this sounds dry and dusty, but the author writes with a lively, well-documented, anecdote-rich style that modestly cloaks a depth of research far beyond what I've read in history books written by trained historians. It's a pleasure to read, and in the process of reading it you'll learn a great deal about the history of plastic manufacturing, how artificial textiles are made, the uses of industrial bleaching, and many dozens of other intriguing processes which make our world what it is.

What a pleasure to discover that there still are a few highly educated "renaissance" people in the world who can combine expertise in medicine, history, social thought and engineering to come up with such a delightful, well-written read.

If I had the power, I'd nominate this book for the National Book Award in History!
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Philip Kienholz on December 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book focuses on industrial hazards, with brief explanations, and reasonably complete histories, of the industrial processes insofar as the history and the knowledge of the process can inform knowledge of the hazard presented to workers and to product users. One key theme is how knowledge of many of today's industrial hazards has been with us for very long periods of time, but that--and I interject here my own view--given the emphasis on economic development concurent with the rise of industrial society--medical and regulatory efforts at controlling or reducing the risks of the hazards have been unsuccessful, due to the inconvenence or costs to the industries so associated. Without actually using the term "externalities," a propensity to assign those costs from industries to their employees, the environment, and to product-users is documented.

Another key theme is that the knowledge of the hazards and their tentatively arrived-at mitigation measures has ebbed and flowed, with populations thinking that effective controls have been implemented when in fact they have not been.

A further point of knowledge is that there is no clear dividing line between exposures in the workplace and exposures in the home. For this reason, and probably because the medical literature from which he is able to draw has dealt more with workplace hazards than with hazards in the home, the focus is on industry, though the writing moves from industry to the home when the hazards move there also.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 26, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought and read this book together with Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power and I recommend both of them. This one is written from an occupational health perspective, and provides superb history on "the industrial disease" while "Exposed" is more from a public policy perspective.

The author mentions, and I plan to sign up for if I can, the Center for Disease Control (CDC)"Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report."

The author who started out focusing on workplace toxicity, also covers household toxicity, most alarming of which was paint emitting toxic vapors.

The author laments the manner in which the government, think tanks, and corporations are all doing a slow roll on toxicity, ignoring it, covering it up, or delaying action on it. The The Precautionary Principle in the 20th Century: Late Lessons from Early Warnings is nowhere to be found, in part because of The Republican War on Science.

Among the threats covered:

· Acids
· Arsenic
· Asbestor
· Chlorine
· Dyes
· Fibers (Asthma)
· Fumes from Metal (Lung collapse)
· Glue
· Lead
· Manganese
· Oil
· Plastics (Liver Cancer)
· Solvents (Benzine)
· Toxic Gases

The author is authoritative and not at all over-bearing in laying out the case against an ignorances of toxicity that is assuredly not in the public interest.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Christian P. Erickson on January 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
Given the recent proliferation of pulp-professional books reviewing environmental toxicology, Dr. Paul Blanc's immediate challenge in *How Everyday Products Make us Sick* is to set his work apart from its peers. To anyone who merely browses Blanc's book, it will quickly become apparent that he easily obviates this challenge.

And to anyone who studies his book in depth, it will become clear that Blanc has at once established himself as a member of that rare species called "polymath;" a species populated by the likes of Jared Diamond, Joseph Campbell, and James Burke.

Of all such authors, Blanc's style and scope most closely mirrors that of Burke, whose celebrated "Connections" series on BBC set a new standard for integrated, iconoclastic scholarship. While, as an occupational toxicologist, I am admittedly partial to Blanc's field of study, I am anything but partial to its existing body of literature. Before reading--and re-reading--Blanc's book, I had yet to encounter a model for conveying occupational toxicology to the general public both coherently and charmingly.

Yet Blanc's breakthough compendium is nothing if not both charming and coherent. It will undoubtedly captivate both professionals and non-professionals, although non-professionals will likely gain the most insight from this book. (Professionals, and/or perfectionists, will reap immeasurable reward from Blanc's immaculate footnotes; worthy of separate publication in their own right).

Like James Burke, Blanc inter-weaves science, history, and culture with such electrifying (and refreshingly irreverent) flair as to virtually prove Mark Twain's saw that nothing has been more detrimental to human knowledge than traditional, pulpous modes of education.

Christian P. Erickson, M.D., M.P.H.
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