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Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Dan Fagin

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10420116,035 (4.14)40
Member:lbeaumont
Title:Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation
Authors:Dan Fagin
Info:Bantam (2013), Hardcover, 560 pages
Collections:Early Reviewers, Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin (2013)

Recently added byMKS1977, J.Green, jangis, staci426, etbm2003, private library
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» See also 40 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
The problem for manufacturing companies, and especially chemical manufacturers, is what to do with the waste products. Disposing of it safely can get expensive and eat into profits, so historically companies just dumped it in a river and it was on its way to the ocean - or at least it wasn't their problem anymore. Of course, a river can only take so much before people start to notice... and complain!

Toms River was a pretty little place near the Jersey shore when Ciba-Geigy relocated their manufacturing there in 1949. They were moving operations from Cincinnati (and the Ohio River) where they'd been making fabric dyes from petroleum and tar products for years. Before that they'd made their products in Basel, Switzerland, along the banks of the Rhine River. They purchased a large piece of wooded New Jersey property and built their factory in the middle, surrounded by trees that hid it from the outside. But they didn't dump *all* their wastes into the river - that would have drawn complaints. Instead they burned some of it (at night to reduce complaints from the town) and built holding ponds on the property. Unfortunately those ponds weren't lined and the wastes seeped easily into the sandy soil (the level sometimes dropping as much as five feet in a day) and into the groundwater that provided the growing town's drinking water. But it wasn't just Ciba polluting the town and water. In an effort to keep disposal costs down, Union Carbide paid a contractor to "dispose" of their wastes and it and it ended up being dumped in a pit in a back corner of an old egg farm.

Dan Fagin tells the story of how a cluster of children in Toms River (actually named Dover Township) developed cancer and the medical sleuthing that was able to point the finger at the toxic wastes being generated nearby. And for a fairly lengthy book (460 pages) it's hard to put down. Fagin covers not only Toms River but also the history of how links to cancer were uncovered along the way - and it's a fascinating story. I found his explanations of how cancers happen (there are about 150 different kinds) as well as the history of the chemical industry very interesting, not to mention disturbing - the part about "salvation" in the title is misleading, since there wasn't much of it in the story. The science gets a little technical, but not overly so. And it's plain from the beginning who the bad guys in this story are, but Fagin does a good job explaining why it's so difficult to *prove* blame in such cases even if his telling doesn't always feel very balanced. And as for blame, Fagin makes it pretty clear it wasn't just the chemical companies - plenty of people from politicians to plant workers were perfectly willing to turn a blind eye to what was going on. ( )
  J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
The problem for manufacturing companies, and especially chemical manufacturers, is what to do with the waste products. Disposing of it safely can get expensive and eat into profits, so historically companies just dumped it in a river and it was on its way to the ocean - or at least it wasn't their problem anymore. Of course, a river can only take so much before people start to notice... and complain!

Toms River was a pretty little place near the Jersey shore when Ciba-Geigy relocated their manufacturing there in 1949. They were moving operations from Cincinnati (and the Ohio River) where they'd been making fabric dyes from petroleum and tar products for years. Before that they'd made their products in Basel, Switzerland, along the banks of the Rhine River. They purchased a large piece of wooded New Jersey property and built their factory in the middle, surrounded by trees that hid it from the outside. But they didn't dump *all* their wastes into the river - that would have drawn complaints. Instead they burned some of it (at night to reduce complaints from the town) and built holding ponds on the property. Unfortunately those ponds weren't lined and the wastes seeped easily into the sandy soil (the level sometimes dropping as much as five feet in a day) and into the groundwater that provided the growing town's drinking water. But it wasn't just Ciba polluting the town and water. In an effort to keep disposal costs down, Union Carbide paid a contractor to "dispose" of their wastes and it and it ended up being dumped in a pit in a back corner of an old egg farm.

Dan Fagin tells the story of how a cluster of children in Toms River (actually named Dover Township) developed cancer and the medical sleuthing that was able to point the finger at the toxic wastes being generated nearby. And for a fairly lengthy book (460 pages) it's hard to put down. Fagin covers not only Toms River but also the history of how links to cancer were uncovered along the way - and it's a fascinating story. I found his explanations of how cancers happen (there are about 150 different kinds) as well as the history of the chemical industry very interesting, not to mention disturbing - the part about "salvation" in the title is misleading, since there wasn't much of it in the story. The science gets a little technical, but not overly so. And it's plain from the beginning who the bad guys in this story are, but Fagin does a good job explaining why it's so difficult to *prove* blame in such cases even if his telling doesn't always feel very balanced. And as for blame, Fagin makes it pretty clear it wasn't just the chemical companies - plenty of people from politicians to plant workers were perfectly willing to turn a blind eye to what was going on. ( )
  J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
The problem for manufacturing companies, and especially chemical manufacturers, is what to do with the waste products. Disposing of it safely can get expensive and eat into profits, so historically companies just dumped it in a river and it was on its way to the ocean - or at least it wasn't their problem anymore. Of course, a river can only take so much before people start to notice... and complain!

Toms River was a pretty little place near the Jersey shore when Ciba-Geigy relocated their manufacturing there in 1949. They were moving operations from Cincinnati (and the Ohio River) where they'd been making fabric dyes from petroleum and tar products for years. Before that they'd made their products in Basel, Switzerland, along the banks of the Rhine River. They purchased a large piece of wooded New Jersey property and built their factory in the middle, surrounded by trees that hid it from the outside. But they didn't dump *all* their wastes into the river - that would have drawn complaints. Instead they burned some of it (at night to reduce complaints from the town) and built holding ponds on the property. Unfortunately those ponds weren't lined and the wastes seeped easily into the sandy soil (the level sometimes dropping as much as five feet in a day) and into the groundwater that provided the growing town's drinking water. But it wasn't just Ciba polluting the town and water. In an effort to keep disposal costs down, Union Carbide paid a contractor to "dispose" of their wastes and it and it ended up being dumped in a pit in a back corner of an old egg farm.

Dan Fagin tells the story of how a cluster of children in Toms River (actually named Dover Township) developed cancer and the medical sleuthing that was able to point the finger at the toxic wastes being generated nearby. And for a fairly lengthy book (460 pages) it's hard to put down. Fagin covers not only Toms River but also the history of how links to cancer were uncovered along the way - and it's a fascinating story. I found his explanations of how cancers happen (there are about 150 different kinds) as well as the history of the chemical industry very interesting, not to mention disturbing - the part about "salvation" in the title is misleading, since there wasn't much of it in the story. The science gets a little technical, but not overly so. And it's plain from the beginning who the bad guys in this story are, but Fagin does a good job explaining why it's so difficult to *prove* blame in such cases even if his telling doesn't always feel very balanced. And as for blame, Fagin makes it pretty clear it wasn't just the chemical companies - plenty of people from politicians to plant workers were perfectly willing to turn a blind eye to what was going on. ( )
  J.Green | Aug 26, 2014 |
Add one more five star rating for this extremely well researched and informative book about an average mid sized New Jersey town that is ravaged by all manner of pollutants from two different companies for well over forty years. What I found most interesting is just how hard it is to prove damages against polluters and how little state and local government (Republican) did in this instance to help average citizens against corporate interests. Were it not for a lot of luck and the dogged determination of several people nothing would have been done either for the liability or to clean up the pollution at all. A real eye opener. ( )
  muddyboy | Jul 19, 2014 |
Superbly written, monumental story, fast read. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. ( )
  KimberBarber | Jul 18, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
"..surely a new classic of science reporting"
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 055380653X, Hardcover)

The riveting true story of sixty years in the life of a small town ravaged by industrial pollution, Toms River melds hard-hitting investigative reporting, a fascinating scientific detective story, and an unforgettable cast of characters into a sweeping narrative in the tradition of A Civil Action, The Emperor of All Maladies, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

One of New Jersey’s seemingly innumerable quiet seaside towns, Toms River became the unlikely setting for a decades-long drama that culminated in 2001 with one of the largest legal settlements in the annals of toxic dumping. A town that would rather have been known for its Little League World Series champions ended up making history for an entirely different reason: a notorious cluster of childhood cancers scientifically linked to local air and water pollution. For years, large chemical companies had been using Toms River as their private dumping ground, burying tens of thousands of leaky drums in open pits and discharging billions of gallons of acid-laced wastewater into the town’s namesake river.

In an astonishing feat of investigative reporting, prize-winning journalist Dan Fagin recounts the sixty-year saga of rampant pollution and inadequate oversight that made Toms River a cautionary example for fast-growing industrial towns from South Jersey to South China. He tells the stories of the pioneering scientists and physicians who first identified pollutants as a cause of cancer, and brings to life the everyday heroes in Toms River who struggled for justice: a young boy whose cherubic smile belied the fast-growing tumors that had decimated his body from birth; a nurse who fought to bring the alarming incidence of childhood cancers to the attention of authorities who didn’t want to listen; and a mother whose love for her stricken child transformed her into a tenacious advocate for change.

A gripping human drama rooted in a centuries-old scientific quest, Toms River is a tale of dumpers at midnight and deceptions in broad daylight, of corporate avarice and government neglect, and of a few brave individuals who refused to keep silent until the truth was exposed.

Advance praise for Toms River
 
Toms River is an epic tale for our chemical age. Dan Fagin has combined deep reporting with masterful storytelling to recount an extraordinary battle over cancer and pollution in a New Jersey town. Along the way—as we meet chemists, businessmen, doctors, criminals, and outraged citizens—we see how Toms River is actually a microcosm of a world that has come to depend on chemicals without quite comprehending what they might do to our health.”—Carl Zimmer, author of A Planet of Viruses and Parasite Rex
 
“At once intimate and objective, Toms River is the heartbreaking account of one town's struggle with a legacy of toxic pollution. Dan Fagin has written a powerful and important book.”—Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe
 
“A thrilling journey through the twists and turns of cancer epidemiology, Toms River is essential reading for our times. Dan Fagin takes us on a breathtaking tour through a wide terrain of topics—cancer, the environment, carcinogenesis and prevention—yet manages to keep us engaged with deeply personal stories. He handles topics of great complexity with the dexterity of a scholar, the honesty of a journalist, and the dramatic skill of a novelist.”—Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:56 -0400)

Recounts the decades-long saga of the New Jersey seaside town plagued by childhood cancers caused by air and water pollution due to the indiscriminate dumping of toxic chemicals.

(summary from another edition)

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