Living Downstream - Sandra Steingraber
Thirty-five years ago, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring warned of the destructive impact of chemicals on the environment. Steingraber, a biologist, builds upon Carson's work, focusing on the link between chemicals in the environment and increasing cancer rates: "From dry-cleaning fluids to DDT, harmful substances have trespassed into the landscape and have also woven themselves, in trace amounts, into the fibers of our bodies." A cancer victim herself, Steingraber weaves a dark and pithy trail through the lives of cancer victims, their environments and increasing cancer rates. Using her home territory of Illinois as a backdrop, she successfully connects the environmental contamination of DDT, dioxin, PCB's and many other chemicals that increase the cancer rates both in nature and humans. In a chapter titled "Fire," she describes the mass building of garbage incinerators throughout the country and how they have impacted our environment by creating cancer-causing agents like dioxin and furans. Steingraber's writing is clear and concise, displaying complicated chemical and biological transformations with elegance and ease. We are living downstream, watching the increasing flow of cancer, Steingraber says, but our efforts are so consumed in curing cancer that we forget to investigate its cause. The author's well-documented account should help to rectify this disturbing and dangerous situation.