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Toxic Truth: A Scientist, a Doctor, and the Battle over Lead Hardcover – March 1, 2009
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"Toxic Truth is a compelling and forceful portrayal of the lives and pain of these two remarkable scientific pioneers. An impressively researched and well-documented book, it is an astonishing chronicle of one of the most insidious and avoidable health problems of our time." —Dr. Devra Davis, author of When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle against Pollution
"In Toxic Truth, Lydia Denworth has pulled off a rare feat: she's written a true page-turner, animated by a fascinating medical mystery, that's also a nuanced and immensely thoughtful look at how good ideas can overthrow orthodoxy—and ultimately make the world a better place."—Steven Johnson, author of The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
"The 'unearthing' of the problem of children's injury from environmental lead, by intrepid researchers such as Needleman and Patterson, makes for an intriguing chronicle. The pitfalls and challenges they encountered at every step, their persistence in the face of extraordinary attacks, are instructive for others who pursue the truth with the courage of their convictions."—Dr. Alan Woolf, Director, Pediatric Environmental Health Center at Children's Hospital, Boston, and Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
"Toxic Truth is an engrossing and inspiring story of how two courageous men shone the clear light of science on industry's effort to conceal the harm to our children—and to all of us—by lead in the environment."—Philip and Alice Shabecoff, authors of Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on Our Children
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The author's background as a journalist is much appreciated by the reader in her ability to provide balanced portraits, not just of her heroes, but also of those scientists who often went toe-to-toe with Patterson and Needleman. Lesser books in this genre are often so lopsided in how they fawn over their chosen luminary and dismissive of their chosen villain that one is left to wonder whether the writer is playing straight with the facts. Fortunately, there is no such concern with Toxic Truth. The book's central thesis is greatly strengthened by the fair treatment of its many subjects not weakened.
For readers curious about the nexus of science, government, public health, and monied-interests, Toxic Truth is the best new book on the market and is much recommended.
I used to work in a laboratory in Paris where most of the scientists quoted in the book came to give talks. Needleman had come up with the idea of measuring lead not in blood, because blood is renewed too fast in the body, but in baby teeth. In baby teeth, the whole history of lead contamination is integrated. Then, you have a point of comparison to measure, for instance the relation between lead and intellectual deficiencies. Needleman was so good that I remember everything he said, and this was 30 years ago. He had a program with a reward for kids who brought him their baby teeth and a lot of trouble with kids bringing him dog teeth and grandma's dentures! The correlations he found between lead and loss of IQ got us to ask a lot of questions: it is pretty hard to justify that you see the effect of lead when so many factors (race,heredity, fortune, education) are expected to play a role. But he had thought of everything and I got to say that he was not only very good, he was also very cool. We were impressed.
Patterson was totally dedicated to educate everybody about lead. I remember him in a chic restaurant in Paris refusing a bottle of wine capped with tin (as all bottles were in the 70s) and giving a 20 minutes lecture to the server: I had to translate, it was just as funny as it was embarrassing.Read more ›
Romans used it to line their wine casks and water pipes and it is suggested by some this helped bring down their civilization.
One study in 1972 (page 90) using rats fed lead showed the normally nocturnal rats completely hyperactive during the day. Very unusual. Silbergold then gave these lead fed now hyperactive rats Ritalin and "saw the same effects that pediatricians saw in children." "My control animals (no lead) with Ritalin became hyper, the hyper animals (fed lead) calmed down immediately." Rats aren't children but this result is fascinating and horrifying.
His work was discredited, initially by two women whose careers were financially supported by the industry that stood to suffer negative impact from his work's fruition. Nonetheless, he fought on, and the data were reviewed by at least THREE outside panels and found to be reproducible. He was completely exonerated, and the rest is history.
Denworth has done a very fine job summarizing the scientific, political, economic and personal issues that were involved in this tail for my father and another investigator. She did research the story in exquisite detail and writes with straightforward and elegant prose.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very well-explained history of how the subtleties of low dose lead poisoning were discovered and what it took to overturn the status quo influence peddling which the lead... Read morePublished 10 months ago by *
Geochemist Clair Patterson aimed to determine the age of the Earth. He hoped to do this by measuring the minute quantities of lead in meteorites — products of the slow decay... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Christopher Paul Winter
An important book that every scientist, doctor, politician, policymaker, professor, college administrator and concerned citizen should read. Read morePublished 19 months ago by David J Kruglinski
As a peripheral fighter in the lead wars, I found this book a must read. I was heavily involved in a fight against lead paint in inner city housing in Rochester, NY, back in the... Read morePublished 19 months ago by David J. Wilson
Good journalism on the fight to get the lead out. The reporting seeming fair and unbiased and brought out the personalities of Needleman, Patterson and other participants. Read morePublished on February 2, 2012 by C. Mark Martel
Fantastic book - written by a journalist in easily understood language with enough "scienctific speak" to make the story credible. Read morePublished on February 2, 2011 by Kelly
I have been doing consulting on lead-based paint issues and EPA's abatement training since the early 90's. As one who has been involved in this but not on the front lines as Dr. Read morePublished on January 30, 2011 by Burt Olhiser
What a story! Two individuals, one a scientist and the other a doctor, simultaneously yet independently take on big business and save the lives of who knows how many. Read morePublished on April 21, 2009 by ASK