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When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales Of Environmental Deception And The Battle Against Pollution Paperback – December 25, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Davis, one of the world's leading epidemiologists and researchers on environmentally linked illness, writes about her lifelong battle against environmental pollution in strong prose, underlined with some horrifying stories. With a special emphasis on air pollution and its long-term effects, Davis anecdotally talks about some of the most infamous smogs and fogs of all time, including the Donora Fog (October 26, 1948) that left a small zinc-factory town in Pennsylvania blanketed in a thick, toxic fog for over a week. "Within days, nearly half the town would fall ill" and within one 24-hour period 18 people had died. She argues that these incidents are underreported because the industries responsible for the pollutants are often powerful corporations or the major employer in these small towns. Research into the long-term effects of pollution, such as breast and testicular cancer, reveals that people in the Northeast (including Long Island and Connecticut) and in California have a higher incidence of serious illnesses. Most importantly, Davis brings to the fore the long-lasting effects of growing up and living in a polluted atmosphere, clearly demonstrating that "people living in areas with the dirtiest air had the highest risk of dying." She sounds the warning bell loud and clear: the threat to public health is real. This is an enlightening, engrossing read (with an intro by Gaynor, a leading oncologist at the Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York City), which should be on the shelf of anyone who cares about the environment and wants to learn more about policy, health and politics; Davis weaves all of these together with grace.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Epidemiologist Davis documents the struggle to force the auto, oil, coal, and chemical industries to come to terms with the environmental consequences of their unregulated release of toxic substances into our air and water-in particular high cancer rates, heart and lung diseases, infertility, brain damage, and death. She sets the stage by describing the perpetual health problems and deaths in her home town of Donora, PA, caused by toxins from coal, steel, and zinc processing. Her accounts of the devastating black smog that blanketed the town for several days in 1948 and other black smogs in Liege, London, and Los Angeles reveal the global nature of the problem. This is an expos on how industrial polluters deceived the public, belittled scientists and academics, and pressured government agencies to stifle regulations. Davis acknowledges that today's environmental regulations are a tribute to those who fought the polluters and demanded change, but the battle continues. Recommended for all environmental and public health collections; for additonal coverage of this issue, see also Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner's Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution and Sandra Steingraber's Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment.
Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., New York
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (December 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465015220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465015221
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #514,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Visiting Professor of the Hebrew University Medical Center of Jerusalem, and Ondokuz Mayis University School of Medicine of Samsun, Turke (2015-­‐2016), Devra Davis was Founding Director, Center for Environmental Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, and Professor of Epidemiology at the Graduate School of Public Health (2004-­‐ 2010) and Founding Director, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology of the U.S. National Research Council (1983-­‐1993), where she also served as Scholar in Residence. She has served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Visiting Professor at Mt.Sinai School of Medicine, Oberlin College and Carnegie Mellon University. Davis is Founder and President of Environmental Health Trust, a non-­‐profit research and public education organization that is part of the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole. She is also the author of more than 200 scientific publications, 10 edited monographs, and three popular books, as well as numerous opeds and blogs for Huffington Post, Drudge Report, Alternet.com and other sources.

Dr. Davis holds a B.S. and M.A.from the University of Pittsburgh, both received in 1967. She completed a Ph.D. in science studies at the University of Chicago as a Danforth Foundation Graduate Fellow, 1972 and a M.P.H. in epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University as a Senior National Cancer Institute Post-­‐Doctoral Fellow, 1982.

President Clinton appointed the Honorable Dr. Davis to the newly established Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, (1994-­‐99) an independent executive branch agency that investigates, prevents, and mitigates chemical accidents. As the former Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, she has counseled leading officials in the United States, United Nations, European Environment Agency, Pan American Health Organization, World Health Organization, and World Bank and served as a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors of the U.S. National Toxicology Program, 1983-­‐86 and various advisory committees to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Davis has been a Fellow of both the American Colleges of Toxicology and of Epidemiology. The Betty Ford Comprehensive Cancer Center and the American Cancer Society gave her the Breast Cancer Awareness Award. She was commended by the Director of the National Cancer Institute for Outstanding Service, appointed a Global Environmental advisor to Newsweek Magazine, and Awarded the Woman of Distinction Award from The Lemelson Center for Invention and Innovation of the Smithsonian Institution honored her as an innovator on the environment and invited her to give a distinguished lecture in 1998. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations Climate Convention tapped her to serve as a Lead Author on their assessment of climate mitigation policies. She received the Woman of Distinction Award from the Conservative Judaism's Women's League.

She was a member of a team of scientists awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with the Honorable Al Gore. Davis is currently working with senior officials from the
governments of India, Israel, Brazil, Australia, Turkey and the United Arab Republic to promote the creation of an independent research and training program in bioelectromagnetics. Her work has been featured on CNN, Forbes.com, CSPAN, CBC, BBC, and public radio, and numerous blogs.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The headline in today's paper reads, "EPA drops clean-air action against plants." It goes on to say that after weakening the Clean Air Act for future power plant expansions, the Bush administration has now dropped enforcement actions already in progress against dozens of coal powered plants suspected of illegally pumping thousands of tons of pollution into the air. The headline makes it clear why we need more people like Devra Davis and more books like When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution.
Davis, who holds a masters degree in public health, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, an adviser to the World Health Organization, and an original researcher into the impacts of air pollution on health worldwide. When Smoke Ran Like Water is her personal take on how letting businesses dump toxins into the air people breathe and the water they drink has resulted in illness-racked lives and hundreds of thousands of deaths throughout history. The story gets personal when she describes the clot of industrial pollution that settled over her hometown of Donora, Pennsylvania on October 26, 1948, sickening half the town and killing eighteen people outright. Like the deadly smogs that killed 12,000 people in London in 1952, the Donora deaths were swept under the carpet by officials; keeping the factories running was deemed far more important than a few "extra" deaths.
The really shocking point Davis makes, however, is that such dramatic events represent just a tiny fraction of the illness, disability, and premature death caused by the long-term impact of chronic air pollution.
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Format: Hardcover
In the Absence of Corporate Conscience

Judith Poole

Davis, Devra. (2002). When Smoke Ran Like Water: tales of environmental deception and the battle against pollution. NY: Basic Books. $26.00. Available, Minuteman Library

In this compelling volume, Davis casts a brilliant spotlight on historic precedents and modern events that pit public health against corporate welfare. With a clear focus, she addresses the history of industrial and automobile generated air pollution, the challenges and complexities of epidiemiological research, and problems generated when decisions and decision makers are politically motivated. She weaves these strands together in a personal narrative that is at once rivetting and convincing.
The impact of environmental challenges on the health of children, older people, and future generations is made evident. The reader comes away with greater understanding, aware of what's really going on in the trenches. The age old conflict between those who think nothing of polluting our environment and those who work hard attempting to protect it only escalates. When Smoke Ran Like Water may be just the antidote to the apathy among those of us who feel overwhelmed. Everywhere one looks, decades of hard won environmental protections are dismantled while, in the language of doublespeak, the administration claims ?progress?.
In this volume, we learn about damage caused by air borne toxic substances. Like a Hollywood box office thriller, we learn that deep pockets allow industry-mounted
campaigns. Expensive paid experts are hired to dispute every finding, willing to intimidate researchers with the audacity to conduct research that might condemn the corporate approach to doing buisness.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a good and balanced book, especially considering the vested interests of the author (her life!). Too often, these types of books turn into little more than political rants. This is not the case here. Sure, there are political actions and inactions that are discussed, but no personal attacks.

There is not a tremendous amount of scientific data in this book, but I did not expect it. I was not looking for a tome of information. The author delivers on her personal and professional experiences in what is the best way possible. If only we could get others to follow her lead.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I never saw my grandfather, Rade Talovich. He died several years before I was born.
After he emigrated from Serbia, he spent his life working steam shovels in the factories of Donora, Pennsylvania. He died suddenly in his fifties, a few months after the killer smog of 1948.
I have never visited Donora. After he left, my father, Peter, never wanted to see the town again. We lived in LA, about as far from Donora as you can get in the continental USA.
I remember the whole class crying as we sat on the football field during PE class at Pasadena High. We were sitting because the air was so bad we were not allowed to play; we were crying because the air hurt so much. We would try to see Mt Wilson, a few miles right behind our school. Usually we couldn't.
(Every time this happened, there would always be a couple guys who passed the time chatting about what kind of cars they wanted. Inevitably big powerful ones.)
My father never really told us what happened to our grandfather. Now, reading When Smoke Ran Like Water, I know more about it. Who needs Stephen King when you can get scared out of your mind by the solid facts about the air in your lungs?
Dr Davis states her cases clearly and meticulously. It is a pleasure to read her beautifully sculptured sentences. I burst out laughing more than once at her nicely planted pronouncements. (Also, in this era of baldly explicit descriptions, it is nice to read her respectful ¡§G-d¡¨)
The focus of the book is pollution, so there are a few avenues that could bear further exploration. She examines the important problem of breast cancer from the angle of pollutants. In Diet For A New America, John Robbins documented the role of eggs in causing breast cancer.
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