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Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power Hardcover – September 16, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Based on seven years of reporting from over a dozen countries, writer Tom Wainwright takes you on an extraordinary journey into the business of being a drug lord. Learn more.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Americans' confidence in their government-sanctioned environmental and consumer protections receives another blow in investigative reporter Schapiro's exposé, which explores such discomforting information as the 2005 U.S. Centers for Disease Control tests that found 148 toxic chemicals "in the bodies of 'Americans of all ages.'" The U.S.'s unique tendency to take no action against businesses and their products until a disaster occurs keeps them tied to 1970s standards-"exposed to substances from which increasing numbers of people around the world are being protected"-while "the principle of preventing harm before it happens, even in the face of imperfect scientific certainty," guides an increasing number of countries; by "creating legal and financial incentives," governments in Europe and Japan have kept citizens relatively safe from what contributes to the deaths "of at least 5 million people a year," according to the World Health Organization. Schapiro (co-author, with David Weir, of Circle of Poison: Pesticides and People in a Hungry World) discovers toxins in personal care products, toys, electronics and foods which are, in some cases, manufactured solely for U.S. consumption, and traces them to the people and events responsible. Though a look at growing support for change in the U.S. provides some hope, a guide to action would have been an appropriate addition to Schapiro's prescient muckraking.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Listen up, American business, and save yourselves while you still can. Time and again in his career, journalist Mark Schapiro has been years ahead of the pack in unveiling stories that reveal the emerging global future. This time, Schapiro shows that Europe, by taking the environmental high road, is cleaning America's economic clock (not to mention exposing its people to much less pollution). The markets of the future are green. America will lose them if it doesn't get smart, soon."
-Mark Hertsgaard, author of Earth Odyssey and The Eagle's Shadow

"A compelling wake-up call from deep inside the trenches. Europe is overtaking us in environmental health and safety regulations, while Americans are being sold out by their own government. This story desperately needs to be told, and Mark Schapiro is just the one to tell it."
-David Wirth, Professor of Law and Director of International Programs, Boston College Law School

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (September 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933392150
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933392158
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #552,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Schapiro is a veteran environmental journalist, who covers the intersection between the environment, economics and international politics. He was formerly editorial director and senior correspondent at the Center for Investigative Reporting. His work is published widely in magazines such as Harpers, The Atlantic, Yale 360, The Nation, Mother Jones and elsewhere. He has also worked as reporter/correspondent for the PBS newsmagazine show FRONTLINE/World; and for the public radio program Marketplace. He teaches at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

His latest book, CARBON SHOCK, is the product of five years of intensive reporting and writing from the hot-spots where the costs of climate change are being experienced and fought over.

Previous books include EXPOSED: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power (Chelsea Green) and CIRCLE of POISON: Pesticides and People in a Hungry World (with David Weir).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I pulled this book out of the library in Urbana, Illinois while visiting a friend and didn't put it down until I was done. Now I find myself ordering my own copy so my daughter can read it as well. Bottom line: this book reveals how the people of the USA are not as well protected by our government as we might think we are. The recent lead-paint-in-toys recall and this year's pet-food-debacle, while not addressed, become more understandable for those of us who might have thought, "now how could *that* happen?" It happens because the US standards are not as tight as they should be!
The book addresses the thousands of chemicals all around us -- those in our appliances, our cosmetics and toiletries, even our food, and shows how very little testing is done on these chemicals before we are subjected to them. It also covers the political and economic aspects of the topic, including how there is contamination of "normal" crops due to cross pollination with Genetically Modified crops, and how the US crops could be losing their global appeal.
Forget about going to see a thriller at the Cinema 13 tonight -- just read this book to get yourself good and frightened!
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Format: Hardcover
I had not realized till I read this book that Europe seems more interested in health than corporate profits, as evidenced by how closely they watch modern products. The US used to be a leader in this regard, but now govt agencies are tools of big business. It's sad, but the hope is that the standards that the Europeans set (and by osmosis, Japan and China) will gradually improve the safety of products in the US. No company likes having two versions of a product.

Sadly, we cannot depend of the FDA, USDA, and other agencies to safeguard our health. Better to know than not so we can act accordingly. Better get the book.
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Format: Hardcover
Over the years I have witnessed representatives of America's chemical industry seeking to weaken proposed new health and environmental standards in Brussels and generally decrying the European approach as 'non-sensical'. This book shows how and why such efforts were misplaced, ultimately self-defeating and inimical to the US consumer.
My attention was brought to this book by an article in The Economist ('Brussels rules OK', Sep 20th 2007). The article generally concerned the European regulatory approach and how it was influencing not just developments in its own markets, but also abroad, as other countries used the EU standards as benchmarks for their own regulation. Even the US industry seemed to have sat up and noticed at last.
Concerning "Exposed", The Economist wrote: 'A gripping new book by an American, Mark Schapiro, captures the change. When he began his research, he found firms resisting the notion that the American market would follow EU standards for items like cosmetics, insisting that their American products were already safe. But as the book neared completion, firm after firm gave in and began applying EU standards worldwide, as third countries copied European rules on things like suspected carcinogens in lipstick. Even China is leaning to the European approach, one Procter & Gamble executive tells Mr Schapiro, adding wistfully: "And that's a pretty big country."
The book records similar American reactions to the spread of EU directives insisting that cars must be recycled, or banning toxins such as lead and mercury from electrical gadgets. Obey EU rules or watch your markets "evaporating", a computer industry lobbyist tells Mr Schapiro. "We've been hit by a tsunami," says a big wheel from General Motors.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There probably isn't a single person in the United States whose health hasn't been affected by phthalates (pronounced tha-lates). These guys are plastic softeners. You'll find them in shower curtains, shampoo bottles, raincoats, perfumes, rubber duckies, teething rings, car dashboards--you name it. They're linked with endocrine ailments. They make your hormones crazy. They lower sperm counts, may be linked to prostate and breast cancers, and sexual disfunction. They can cause genetic mutations.

And they're entirely unnecessary. There are other nontoxic additives to make plastic pliable.

Oh, and one more thing: while perfectly legal in the U.S., phthalates are illegal in the European Union. In fact, as author Schapiro points out, a whole cesspool of toxic additives that are perfectly acceptable in the U.S. have been outlawed in the EU for a long time now. Chinese factories that try to sell phthalate-riddled plastic toys in Europe get their commodities rejected at the borders. Guess where they eventually wind up? Under your kid's Christmas tree. As Schapiro says (p. 189), the U.S. is becoming "a dumping ground or goods not wanted elsewhere in the world."

That the FDA and other governmental agencies are doing a crappy job protecting us from harmful and unnecessary toxins in everyday commodities probably doesn't come as much of a shock to anyone. But Schapiro's speculation about why the EU does such a better job watchdogging its citizens is worth heeding. Health care in the EU is nationalized. The government, using in part taxpayer monies, picks up the tab for taking care of sick and dying people.
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