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Biocidal: Confronting the Poisonous Legacy of PCBsby Ted Dracos
Synopses & Reviews
In 1962, Rachel Carson stunned the world with the publication of Silent Spring, exposing the lethal character of the pesticide DDT. Her work launched a global campaign against synthetic chemical toxins and veritably created a world environmental movement. But unbeknownst to Carson, an even more insidious chemical cousin to DDT had been silently poisoning the biosphere.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were first manufactured in 1920. Seen as a “magic fluid,” they were a cheap and stable heat-transfer material used as a critical coolant in big power grids. The chemical industry soon went on to develop hundreds of other uses for this highly toxic group of substances—everything from copy paper and paint to hydraulic fluids. Despite being outlawed in the U.S. since 1976, PCBs are currently found in the remotest corners of Earth and remain the most prevalent group of industrial chemical contaminants in much of the world. Every human being, from the womb to the grave, bears a body burden of these poisonous molecules forever locked in their blood and tissues.
In Biocidal, investigative journalist Ted Dracos tells the full story of PCBs for the first time, starting with the chilling chronicle of how the chemical industry manipulated regulatory agencies and scientific findings for decades to continue to reap huge profits, despite their knowledge of the threats posed by their “magic fluid.” Dracos draws on extensive research to document the connection between PCBs and catastrophic human illness, presenting the latest science as studies draw ever more disturbing links between PCBs and continued health impacts ranging from cancer and autism to immunosuppression and reproductive abnormalities.
Biocidal also explores the science behind the threat PCBs pose to Earth’s biodiversity: today, killer whales in the Puget Sound are dying, the eggs of Ontario Lake trout are doomed before they can hatch, 99 percent of the freshwater eels of Europe have disappeared, and frogs around the world are going extinct. While these disasters have many possible causes, evidence pointing to PCBs keeps accumulating, much like the toxins in these animals’ systems.
Nonetheless, Dracos leaves readers with a profound message of hope: the damage is not irreversible. In fact, cleanup efforts that involve the removal of the source of PCBs can really work, and quickly. Offering a simple blueprint for steps that can be taken to reduce the impacts of all industrial chemicals, Biocidal ultimately points the way toward a detoxified world.
From the Hardcover edition.
Whether or not you've heard of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), it's likely that this toxic chemical can be found in your cells. PCBs were invented in 1920 for the electronics industry, fueled the WWII military machine, then were put to domestic uses, and finally came to be present in every corner of the earth. Because PCBs were outlawed in 1976, most people think they are no longer a threat. However, like many industrial chemicals, PCBs persist in our environment and continue to accumulate in practically every life form on earth, becoming more concentrated in the tissues of those highest on the food chain--like us.
In Biocidal, investigative journalist Ted Dracos explores the science behind how PCBs affect the environment, amphibians, fish, and mammals. He also draws on extensive research to document the connection between PCBs and catastrophic human illness. From the beginning--even as workers in the first manufacturing plants quickly began to suffer skin lesions, boils, liver failure, and death--the industry denied the danger of its chemicals and manipulated science, regulatory agencies, and the government to continue to make and distribute PCBs throughout the next half-century. Dracos provides the latest scientific findings in the heated controversy that surrounds the continued health impacts of PCBs, ranging from cancer to immunosupression, endocrine disruption, fetal brain development, reproductive abnormalities, and even autism.
Yet Biocidal is optimistic, leaving readers with a complete and surprisingly uncomplicated blueprint of what can be done--and is being done--to counter the risks and damages of PCBs and other industrial chemicals.
About the Author
Ted Dracos has been an investigative reporter for three decades. His documentaries, series, articles, and books have won frequent national awards for uncovering corruption and governmental malfeasance. He is the author of Ungodly and lives in the Texas hill country west of San Antonio.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Man Who Poisoned the Planet
Chapter 2 The Good Ol’ Boys of Monsanto
Chapter 3 The Long Con
Chapter 4 The Discovery
Chapter 5 The Global Poison
Chapter 6 PCBs and Kids
Chapter 7 Adult Realities
Chapter 8 PCBs, Breast Cancer, and Hidden Agendas
Chapter 9 Killer Whales and the Weight
Chapter 10 A Lethal Erosion of the Biosphere
Chapter 11 The Devil’s Gamble
Chapter 12 The Politiks of PCBs
Chapter 13 The Epiphany
Chapter 14 GE and the Jacking of the Hudson
Chapter 15 The Inevitability of Nothing
Chapter 16 Precautionary Agonistes
Chapter 17 Epigenetics, PCBs, and Us
Epilogue Clouds and Sunlight
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