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Pandora's Poison: Chlorine, Health, and a New Environmental Strategy Paperback – April 1, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0262700849 ISBN-10: 0262700840

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 611 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (April 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262700840
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262700849
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,811,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In what may become a landmark book in environmental policy, Thornton articulates a new strategy for eradicating one of the world's most pervasive and dangerous pollutants: organochlorines. Produced from chlorine gas in making plastics, papers, pesticides and other industrial chemicals, organochlorines--like DDT, PCBs and dioxins--now contaminate absolutely every inch of the planet, according to the author, from freshwater fish and polar ice caps to the tissues and milk of the general human population. In this lucid study, Thornton, a research fellow at Columbia University and a former research coordinator for Greenpeace, explains how organochlorines have come to dominate virtually all official and unofficial lists of toxic pollutants, and outlines how industries can replace chlorine gas with safer, economically feasible alternatives. Just as important, he proposes a new strategy for dealing with environmental threats; as his "Ecological Paradigm" shifts the focus from individual chemicals to broad classes of hazardous substances and the industries that produce them, it also emphasizes clean production over pollution control. In so doing, the paradigm recognizes the complexity of natural systems, the limitations of science to predict and diagnose the effects of pollution and the inability of quick technological fixes to prevent the continuing buildup of these compounds around the world. Thornton wisely moves the detailed, scientific support for his arguments to references and a back section of notes, turning the body of his book into a compelling essay that identifies a critical problem, pinpoints its causes and outlines a practicable solution. 21 illus. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The worldwide accumulation of chlorinated organic substances, known as organochlorines, are linked to cancer, immune suppression, infertility, and developmental disorders in humans and severe reproductive, developmental, and immunological impairment in wildlife. Organochlorines originate from the production, use, and disposal of chlorine compounds in chemicals, plastics, paper, metallurgy, water treatment, and other industries. Thornton, a biologist and research fellow at Columbia University's Center for Environmental Research and Conservation and a former research coordinator for Greenpeace, describes the global health hazards posed by organochlorines, the causes and dangers of worldwide organochlorine contamination, and some scientific, political, and societal solutions to implement before it is too late. He presents a "risk paradigm" claiming that current strategies for managing, investigating, and disposing of organochlorines have failed. Thornton offers a safer and environmentally sound alternative based upon the principle of "clean production" using chlorine-free technologies. An eye-opener; recommended for all collections.
-Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., NY
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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This is the best of the several environmentally-oriented books I have reviewed recently, and it offers a double value: not only does it lay out a persuasive social, economic, and political case for abandoning the Risk Paradigm of permissive pollution in favor of an Environmental Paradigm of zero pollution; but it also provides a very fine--really excellent--case for why the current government and industry approaches to information about the environment and threats to the environment are severely flawed. In a nutshell, the current approach divorces "good science" (code for permitting what you can't prove will kill the planet today) from social consciousness and good policy; and the current approach insists on studying risk one contaminant at a time, rather than as a whole.
This book is persuasive; I believe author has the right stuff and should be consulted on major policy issues. I believe the underlying moral values and intellectual arguments that this book makes, about both science and social policy, should be adopted by the Cultural Creatives and the independent voters of America, and that the recommendations of this book are so serious as to warrant country by country translations and promulgation.
This book is exceptional in that is combines a readable policy essay for the non-technical citizen, with deeply documented technical appendices and notes that support a middle ground series of chapters relating scientific findings to long-term policy issues.
From many small actions come revolutionary change--this book is a necessary brick in the road to environmental reform.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This extremely well-written book makes a powerful argument for a fundamental but practical change in the way government and the chemical industry do business. It is amazingly well referenced and makes a powerful case that synthetic chemicals based on chlorine are harming everyone's health -- not just people who live in polluted areas but the general public, because hundreds of these chemicals can now be found all across the planet. And the book shows in a very fresh and convincing way that this problem has occurred not because we have no regulations but because we have the wrong kind. The new strategy the author discusses is a big change from the current system of bureaucratized pollution, but its strength is that it is based on principles that, after reading the book, seem like just common sense. A secondary theme is a very interesting discussion of how corporate power shapes environmental science in both subtle and obvious ways, and the implications of this for our assumptions about science and democracy. Well worth reading.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By al stroessner on May 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Reading Pandora's Poison, I couldn't help thinking of Dante's Inferno. Thornton takes the reader on a tour of the modern-day inferno of chemicals we've created since the rise of chlorine chemistry in the early 20th century. Of course, we've known all along that these poisons were out there (and in here, and everywhere) and we knew they were troublesome, even deadly. But reading this book was the first time I took the full tour. Thornton hands the reader big pieces of technical information, but he walks you through them thoroughly, in language the literate adult can understand. I found myself reading passages over and over again, not because their meaning was unclear, but because, for the first time, the meaning of corporate chemistry and its effects was all too clear. It's obvious that while we have long known how to manipulate industrial chemicals to make our gewgaws, it is only recently researchers and writers, like Thornton have taken the time to assemble evidence of what we have done by releasing these compounds into the environment.
If that isn't enough to convince you of human crassness and myopia, Thornton then takes us on a tour of the convoluted regulatory system that allows these pollutants into our air water and food, and shows us how our civil servants, who are supposed to protect us, instead give protective cover to the miserable merchants of industrial poison.
Finally, he provides a solution, which isn't perfect, but would be a significant step in a positive direction and leaves me thinking the needed answers can be found if we devote half as much cleverness to fixing this problem as we did to causing it.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I bought myself a copy of this book as a birthday present. It has served me well, giving me well-research information that is presented in a useful way. As an environmental activist who is constantly told by chemical industry representatives that my work is not based on "sound science," I know that I can turn to Joe Thornton's book to prove them wrong.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Thornton has an eagle-eye view of the problem and presents it in layman's terms. This is a book that is well-written, factual, and presents actual solutions instead of just ringing the alarm bell.
The current industry-driven approach which assumes chemicals "innocent until proven guilty" has clearly failed us. It is based on a microscopic and simple linear chemical-by-chemical rating system. This approach does not take into account accumulation of pollutants nor does it address the myriad and exponential effects of the chemicals in all the complex systems in the biosphere whose dynamics are still only dimly understood. This approach is heavily tilted towards the polluters as Mr. Thornton so skillfully shows.
Mr. Thornton presents a solution that includes a much more prudent "guilty until proven innocent" approach that puts the rights of human beings and the planet first. He proposes viable alternatives for chlorine-based products and proposes a new paradigm for rating chemicals and classes of chemicals that takes into account all the "unknowns" and accumulation problems that the pro-industry (and one currently used by our own EPA)...does not.
Mr. Thornton advocates true science be applied to the problem instead of the "good science" that industry always touts. Unfortunately the term [servant]whore to corporate interests.
A call to arms has been rasied and champion has arisen. Mr. Thornton, on behalf of all humans, plants, and animals....thank you. An excellent job and stunningly good book.
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