The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment (Hardback)
  • The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment (Hardback)

The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment (Hardback)

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Hardback 240 Pages / Published: 23/09/2010
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Focusing on the years before and directly following World War II, Dr. Benjamin Ross and Steven Amter tell the story of how the chemical industry, abetted by a compliant government, set loose a plague of pollution that lasted until the mid-1970s and lingers, to some extent, today. In that era, the advent of new synthetic chemical products such as Nylon and DDT created new hazards just as the expansion and mechanization of industry exacerbated old ones. Environmental dangers well-known today-smog, pesticides, lead, chlorinated solvents, asbestos, and even global warming-were already recognized by chemists, engineers, doctors, and business managers. A few of them spoke out about these dangers, others overlooked scientific truth in pursuit of wealth and prestige, and many struggled to find a balance between the interests of industry and the needs of the wider world. By the mid-twentieth century, the chemical industry understood that it needed to curb its pollution. But federal government regulation, the only mechanism by which effective control could have been accomplished, faced implacable hostility from the industry. Driven by the twin forces of pecuniary interest and ideological hostility to governmental control, it exercised its considerable political and economic power to block oversight. Discovery of new environmental problems was discouraged, and research that might find them was starved of funds. When dangers did emerge, well-paid advocates concocted grounds for doubt. If a crisis exploded into public view, money and influence were deployed to steer investigations toward reassuring conclusions. The Polluters provides a panoramic view of intertwined political and scientific struggles in which the apparatus of science was harnessed to the pursuit of political victory rather then objective truth. The Chemical industry lobbied congress, suppressed unwelcome research, co-opted experts, and, on occasion, simply bribed scientists. Eventually the political and bureaucratic institutions created by the industry to fight off governmental oversight took on a life of their own and constructed adequate environmental controls.

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780199739950
Number of pages: 240
Weight: 492 g
Dimensions: 239 x 163 x 22 mm


"The engrossing, infuriating history of American pollution... An important, disheartening account of widespread willful ignorance."--Kirkus Reviews

"Startling, intense, and brilliantly elucidated... sharply relevant to the present-day disasters of the BP oil spill and the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion... an unlikely page-turner."--Booklist

"The Polluters documents how the strategies used by today's polluters to duck regulation of their toxic chemicals were pioneered by polluters who poisoned the American landscape and killed hundreds of Americans in the early twentieth century. For nearly one-hundred years, corporate polluters have subverted democracy and corrupted public officials to control government regulation of toxic chemicals maximizing profits at the expense of public health."--Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

"The Polluters is a readable, comprehensive and authoritative study of the history of pollution. No matter how much you think you know about this issue, you'll learn something from this book--and you'll be outraged as well as informed."--David Kusnet, Chief Speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, 1992-1994

"The Polluters is a fascinating account of how the polluters in this country got away with murder for decades. This book puts a name and face on the many polluters who knew for years the damage they were doing to the public's health and to the environment and unveils their efforts to cover up the effects of this pollution; a must for any activist who wants to understand the strategies these polluters used to continue business as usual."--Lois Gibbs, Executive Director, Center for Health, Environment & Justice

"The Polluters details how the chemical industry in the 20th century erected political and scientific barriers to government oversight by failing to test the toxicity of their compounds or, worse, keeping secret damning data about health risks of widely used and profitable chemicals."--Lyndsey Layton, Washington Post

"Ross and Amter are certainly not friends of the chemical companies, but they deserve credit for also being able to see things from the industry's standpoint... by taking us back to the period before the great environmental awakening, the book provides an invaluable historical perspective. There's no doubt from this saga that we still need strong government regulation: 100 years of experience shows that companies cannot be trusted to regulate themselves."--Chris Mooney, The American Prospect

"A remarkably timely, extensively researched, and accessible book offering a fresh
perspective . . . This is little-known history that makes for fascinating reading."--The Washington Post

"Frustration. That is the best way to describe the experience of reading The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment. Page after page reveals the history of industries spewing toxins into our air, water, and soil and a government more apt to look the other way. Presenting the conflict through the lens of individual action and human cost, authors Benjamin Ross and Steven Amter provide an engaging and unsettling account of U.S. pollution."

"The Polluters is a commendable effort to present the history of industrial
environmental harm with candor and clarity in a readable, anecdotal form."--Chemical & Engineering News

"Keep moving if you're looking for a happy ending . . . But if you seek a knowing, readable chronicle of humanity's struggle to rein in its own mess-making, these 223 meticulously footnoted pages are, well, the bomb." --Lancaster Sunday News

"To write a history of industrial pollution, with a few shining exceptions, is largely to document its denial by both industry and government. That just the history Benjamin Ross and Steven Amter have given us in The Polluters, an amply footnoted but briskly readable new book published by Oxford University Press." --Dakota Resource Council

"[A] spellbinding and detailed compendium of corporate deceit and defiance that will leave readers fuming at the towering gall of the Polluting Class . . . The Polluters is brimful with decades of tales that will have readers grinding their teeth in indignation and frustration."
--Berkeley Daily Planet

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