Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How Everyday Products Make People Sick or Secret Agents

How Everyday Products Make People Sick: Toxins at Home and in the Workplace

Author: Paul D Blanc

This book reveals the hidden health dangers in many of the seemingly innocent products we encounter every day--a tube of glue in a kitchen drawer, a bottle of bleach in the laundry room, a rayon scarf on a closet shelf, a brass knob on the front door, a wood plank on an outdoor deck. A compelling exposé, written by a physician with extensive experience in public health and illustrated with disturbing case histories, How Everyday Products Make People Sick is a rich and meticulously documented account of injury and illness across different time periods, places, and technologies. It presents a picture not of one exceptional or corrupt industry but rather of how run-of-the-mill manufacturing processes and consumer marketing expose workers and the general public alike to toxic hazards. More troubling still, even when such hazards are recognized, calls for their control are routinely ignored. Written for a wide audience, it offers a critical and disquieting perspective on the relationship between industrial development and its adverse health consequences.
Among the surprisingly common hazards discussed in How Everyday Products Make People Sick:
* Glue and rubber cement
* Chlorine bleach
* Rayon and other synthetic textiles
* Welding and other metal fumes
* Wood preservatives
* Gasoline additives

Library Journal

Blanc (medicine, Univ. of California, San Francisco) has written a scathing account of how industry toxins and factory processes have systematically poisoned large portions of the human population. He documents hazards generated as new products and processes birth chemicals that sicken workers and environments, and castigates governments and businesses that have historically denied, ignored, or weakened protections for workers. Examples include London's "killer fog" of 1952, which took more than 3500 lives, and moving parts in factories that have killed or maimed thousands. Blanc provides case studies from Europe and the United States about specific products, such as glue and rubber cement, shoes, phosphorus matches, asbestos, and rayon. He uses solid facts and a dry wit to expose continuing abuses to humans and the planet. Government agencies and politicians are condemned as too weak, prone to undue influence, and ignorant of the threats posed by emerging chemical toxins that may be more deadly than biological weapons. An outstanding text for students of occupational health issues. Janet M. Schneider, James A. Haley Veterans' Hosp. Lib., Tampa Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Secret Agents: The Menace of Emerging Infections

Author: Madeline Drexler

As timely as it is urgent, this well-researched book from veteran science journalist Madeline Drexler delivers a compelling report on today's most ominous infectious disease threats. She focuses on a different danger in each chapter-from the looming risk of lethal influenza to in-depth information on the public health perils posed by bioterrorism. With a novelist's descriptive eye and a thriller writer's sense of tension, she warns us that the most ceaselessly creative bioterrorist is still Mother Nature, whose microbial operatives are all around us, ready to pounce when conditions are right.

author of Big Shot: Passion, Politics, and the Struggle for an AIDS Vaccine - Patricia Thomas

Like a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, Secret Agents is a panorama teeming with miniatures that make the blood run cold. An authoritative book for an anxious age.

former Director, Central Intelligence Agency, attorney at law - James Woolsey

Madeline Drexler stuns the reader, and rightly so, in this superbly written and alarming book.

M.D., Deputy Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies - Thomas Inglesby

A highly compelling narrative.

Ph.D., Director, University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and co-author of Living Terrors - Michael Osterholm

Secret Agents skillfully captures the frontline experience in the battle between humans and deadly, ever-changing microbes. This book is hard to put down.

Washington Post

Any outbreak of unknown cause is a mystery waiting to be solved, and the best outbreak stories have the quality of a good detective yarn. Drexler pieces together the interplay of bungles, the barriers of ego and ambition, and the lucky breaks. Well-written, well-researched ... a fine and valuable effort.

Philadelphia Inquirer

Drexler's crystal-clear prose reads like a conversation with a master storyteller. This book will amaze and delight anyone fascinated by scientific mysteries.

USA Today

Drexler's gripping book is an especially readable account of the dangerous common ground where man and microbes meet. Richly researched and written in simple, conversational language.

National Journal

..well-researched and well-written ... Drexler writes convincingly and engagingly ... Secret Agents is at once alarming and enlightening, and Drexler has provided a valuable resource for anyone interested in the history and nature of infectious disease.


...a lively and well-researched story.,,,,,,Drexler provides a well-organized and detailed account of several major outbreaks of infectious diseases (predominantly in the United States) and the issues associated with them.

Cleveland Plain Dealer

In a volume written for the educated layman, Drexler does an admirable job of explaining the threats from our food supply, the overuse of antibiotics, exotic viruses such as Ebola, the woeful state of the world's public-health systems and bioterrorism. ... Drexler is a clear and concise writer who avoids sensationalism despite the nature of the subject. She is particularly good at drawing little portraits of the book's heroes, the scientists and medical workers who track and battle the new diseases.

New York Times Book Review

...an authoritative, well-paced, vividly written book that will scare the pants off you. It's so up-to-date it includes even the recent anthrax attacks...All in all, Drexler has produced a fascinating book that everyone (except perhaps serious hypochondriacs) ought to read.

Baltimore Sun

Secret Agents takes its place as a must-read for the latest on this crucial health issue. ... authoritative, compelling..vivid...Drexler's chapters read like dispatches from a war.

Drexler's fine book ought to be required reading for citizens and public leaders the world over.

Town & Village

...fascinating narratives of the detective work in unraveling nature's secrets.


...a fascinating, thought-provoking book... A substantial contribution to public information about infectious diseases.

Publishers Weekly

...engrossing overview... Drexler is skilled at making the biology of pathogens accessible to general readers. ...as bioterrorism (which Drexler addresses) becomes a growing threat, her calls for funding public health organizations and global disease-fighting coalitions are worth reiterating.


Secret Agents, the most recent addition to a decade-long list of books devoted to emerging infections, deserves special praise. ... All observations are accurate, original, and infectiously insightful. Indeed, this book is a most enjoyable read; it should be informative for infectious diseases cognoscenti as well as an excellent introduction for an initiative audience wishing to learn about the newest health threats. ...

The book reads like a perfect multicourse meal, attractively presented and served with the right amount of clinically correct, surprisingly up-to-date information on dozens of conditions. Drexler's Dorothy Parker-like bon mots and asides are the perfect sauces to compliment the feast. ... Secret Agents is a most delightful read, and, like other very special treats, it should be read slowly, savored, and remembered.

Biodefense Quarterly

Ms. Drexler provides a description of bacteria and viruses suitable for the lay audience, while being provocative, honest, and forward-looking in her views on disease and public health.

Library Journal

"The most menacing bioterrorist is Mother Nature herself," declares science journalist Drexler. She backs up her argument with stories of infectious microorganisms from ancient plagues to HIV. Antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis, newly recognized infectious agents like Creutzfeldt-Jakob-causing prions, and predictions of a postantibiotic era create a chilling story of a future in which surgery is no longer safe and treatments for even the simplest infectious diseases are no longer available. Drexler includes chapters on food-borne and insect-borne disease, the 1918 flu pandemic, and bioterrorism. One of the most interesting chapters is on the possible connection between infectious agents and chronic diseases like heart disease and schizophrenia. Though similar in scope to Philip Tierno's Germs (LJ 1/02), this book focuses more on general public health issues and less on day-to-day actions that individuals can take to prevent illness. Most public libraries will want both because of the current interest in bioterrorism. Elizabeth Williams, Fresno City Coll. Lib., CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Table of Contents:
Disease in Disguise

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