Confronting the Poisonous Legacy of PCBs
By Theodore Michael Dracos
(Beacon Press, Paperback, 9780807006320, 304pp.)
Publication Date: March 6, 2012
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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.
Ted Dracos (1945-2011) was a journalist in the areas of science and social policy, and was the author of UnGodly: The Passions, Torments, and Murder of Atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair.
“[A] driving, fast-paced narrative . . . Dracos’s straightforward reporting delivers one blow after another.”—Publishers Weekly
“Innately villainous and shrouded by deceit, PCBs are the cigarettes of the chemical world. Finally, with Biocidal, their treacherous story is told. And, because all of us on Earth carry molecules of PCBs within our bodies, it is a story that all of us on Earth need to hear. Happily, Ted Dracos makes listening to PCBs a captivating task.”—Sandra Steingraber, biologist and author of Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment
“The first ever complete and up-to-date story of PCBs and their effects on human health and the ecosystem.”—Dr. David Carpenter, Director, Institute for Health and the Environment, University at Albany
“Dracos tells the well-documented tale from its beginning, filling in the details of how we have all been reduced to playing the role of lab rats in an awful toxicity experiment created by Monsanto, which made more than 99 percent of all of the PCBs ever used in the United States. The story has many players, including not only Monsanto, but also Monsanto’s biggest customers — polluters that include General Electric and Westinghouse – complicit scientists working on behalf of industry, and co-opted officials in government agencies. Although Dracos spins a non-fictional horror story dotted with dozens of bad decisions made over the course of decades, he also manages to end the book with a hopeful message for change.”—Steven Jensen Blog
“This book is a game changer with respect to the world of PCBs.”—Katie Noble, KPCW’s This Green Earth
“Details how the chemical industry manipulated regulatory agencies despite knowledge of the dangers of PCBs. The author synthesizes research on the connection between PCBs and human illness, environmental damage, and damage to species diversity, drawing on scientific studies, news articles, and court documents.”—SciTech Book News
“Dracos’ writing is accessible and intelligent…Such skilled writing and his talents as an investigative reporter allow Dracos a certain panache to telling the story of Monsanto, the EPA and independent researchers uncovering the true danger.”—Dotrad blog