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Adam Haritan (Founder / Learn Your Land)
I’m currently reading Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin, which tells the 60-year story of how one industrial company’s pollutants have been linked to various cancers in a small New Jersey town. I chose to read this book because I’m very interested in learning the origin of diseases and cancers within the human body.
The true story of a small town ravaged by industrial pollution, Toms River won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and has been hailed by The New York Times as a new classic of science reporting. Now available in paperback with a new afterword by acclaimed author Dan Fagin, the book masterfully blends hard-hitting investigative journalism, scientific discovery, and unforgettable characters.
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 environmental legal settlements in history. 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. The result was a notorious cluster of childhood cancers scientifically linked to local air and water pollution.
Fagin recounts the sixty-year saga of rampant pollution and inadequate oversight that made Toms River a cautionary tale. He brings to life the pioneering scientists and physicians who first identified pollutants as a cause of cancer and the everyday people 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.
Rooted in a centuries-old scientific quest, Toms River is an epic 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.
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