Toxic Truth: A Scientist, a Doctor, and the Battle over Lead by Lydia Denworth

By Lydia Denworth

The first booklet to inform the superb tale of 2 males in the back of the sour thirty-year struggle to guard youngsters from lead
they did not commence as environmental warriors. Clair Patterson was once a geochemist involved in settling on the age of the Earth. Herbert Needleman was once a pediatrician treating inner-city youngsters. yet within the chemistry lab and the health facility ward, they met a typical enemy: lead. It was once actually everywhere-in gas and paint, after all, but in addition in water pipes and foodstuff cans, toothpaste tubes and toys, ceramics and cosmetics, jewellery and batteries. notwithstanding few humans apprehensive approximately it on the time, lead was once additionally toxic.
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In Toxic Truth, journalist Lydia Denworth tells the little-known tales of those males who have been one of the first to question the knowledge of filling the area with any such damaging steel. Denworth follows them from the ice and snow of Antarctica to the schoolyards of Philadelphia and Boston as they exposed the enormity of the matter and proven the irreparable damage lead used to be doing to teenagers. In heated meetings and courtrooms, the halls of Congress and on the Environmental security service provider, the scientist and health practitioner have been compelled to protect their careers and reputations within the face of remarkable competition. It took braveness, ardour, and backbone to succeed opposed to entrenched company pursuits and politicized govt bureaucracies. yet Patterson, Needleman, and their allies did eventually get the lead out - because it used to be faraway from fuel, paint, and foodstuff cans within the Nineteen Seventies, the extent of lead in americans' our bodies has dropped ninety percentage. Their good fortune deals a lesson within the risks of placing fiscal priorities over public wellbeing and fitness, and a reminder of how science-and individuals-can swap the world.
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The primary questions raised by way of this battle-what constitutes illness, the right way to degree medical independence, and the way to quantify appropriate risk-echo in each environmental factor of this day: from the plastic used to make water bottles to greenhouse gasoline emissions. And the main easy question-how a lot can we want to know approximately what we installed our environment-is probably extra proper at the present time than it has ever been.

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It could cause anemia and muscular weakness or paralysis as well as extreme dizziness. It could affect sight and hearing. In the worst cases, it brought on kidney failure, convulsions, comas, and death. At the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Needleman heard only one lecture on lead poisoning. In the 1950s, physicians didn’t fully know all the ways in which lead was damaging the body, but they had developed a straightforward treatment for children whose lead levels were high enough to bring on clinical symptoms.

By then, he had been named chief resident at the Children’s. He enforced a new rule: In the summertime, any child with any possible symptom of lead poisoning—vomiting, anemia, staggering, and so on—would be given a blood lead test. Assume lead poisoning until proven otherwise, he told his staff. Even so, the young doctors sometimes missed the signs. Charles Reilly, one of Needleman’s assistant residents, spent two years in Ohio before coming to Children’s Hospital. “We had not seen lead poisoning in Akron, or if we did, we didn’t diagnose it,” he says.

He didn’t have any authority except moral authority,” says Phillips, “but he took on a few people over that. ” After his internship, Needleman did a one-year research fellowship in rheumatic fever at the Children’s and then was called up for Army service. When he finished his stint at Fort Meade, the physician-in-charge at the Children’s, Joseph Stokes, welcomed him back The Faces of the Children 35 and made him chief resident the next year. ” Needleman seemed to live at the hospital. “I don’t know when he slept.

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