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When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales Of Environmental Deception And The Battle Against Pollution
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When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales Of Environmental Deception And The Battle Against Pollution

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4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  177 ratings  ·  20 reviews
In When Smoke Ran Like Water, the world-renowned epidemiologist Devra Davis confronts the public triumphs and private failures of her lifelong battle against environmental pollution. She documents the shocking toll of a public-health disaster-300,000 deaths a year in the U.S. and Europe from the effects of pollution-and asks why we remain silent. For Davis, the issue is pe ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published December 25th 2003 by Basic Books (first published 2002)
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Elaine
I think I first picked this book up in preparation for a class presentation on politics and epidemiology. It was really an excellent book, filled with well written personal stories woven into scientific facts and figures. Davis is a highly regarded environmental epidemiologist, and one of the few in the field (and sub-field) who has the courage to speak truth to power.

Part of why this book is so powerful and moving is the fact that Davis and her family lived through the Donora smog incident and
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Mark Greene
Devra Davis is great. She's a great role model for girls: a brilliant woman scientist who is not afraid to speak the truth.
Becky
If you're interested in the political relationship between science and public health in the US, this book is for you. I thoroughly enjoyed this book cover to cover, and Devra Davis is now one of my personal heroes.

Some types of scientific advances, such as new technology for your smartphone, are easily gobbled up by the public. Others, such as scientific evidence regarding environmental toxins, are a lot harder for the public and the government to swallow.

This book is about human experience of
...more
Becky
If you're interested in the political relationship between science and public health in the US, this book is for you. I thoroughly enjoyed this book cover to cover, and Devra Davis is now one of my personal heroes.

Some types of scientific advances, such as new technology for your smartphone, are easily gobbled up by the public. Others, such as scientific evidence regarding environmental toxins, are a lot harder for the public and the government to swallow.

This book is about human experience of
...more
Eliza
This book was a very insightful glimpse of the history of pollution in the US. Her personal background made the book seem to mean more, since she had a personal stake in the matter. The history she gives of Donora, London, Los Angeles, all of these locations has a very unique history, but when it comes to their pollution, they are all surprisingly similar. I thought this was fascinating to learn about.

Politics plays a huge part in this book, as it does in the realities of the environmental movem
...more
Bobbi Woods
Can't say that I read this ENTIRE book--it was a little too scientific-documentary for me! We read it for book club and it was sold to us by our EPA friend, Sherri as a "memoir" of this woman's experience growing up in a polluted town in PA, which at one point this century got so bad it killed over 40 people in one weekend because of settling smog from the steel and zinc factories.

It turned out that the first chapter was about the town in PA and each individual chapter following was about a dif
...more
Mark
Read this as an assigment for a profile I was writing (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05332/...). It was nominated for a National Book Award, I think not so much on the strength of its writing as on its vociferous message. Dr. Davis is an activist scientist, I think it's safe to say, who believes there is enough evidence of health damage from environmental pollutants, whether in the air or in plastics or other substances, to warrant intervention by the government to prevent the possibility of la ...more
Bill O'driscoll
Sobering stuff from the epidemiologist who later wrote "The Secret History of the War on Cancer." "Smoke" is about how industrial pollution has consistently been underestimated as a cause of disease. Davis grew up in Donora, Pa., site of an infamous killer toxic smog. (Many in her family later died from cancer, not necessarily because of that episode but likely due in part to the heavy industry in the town.) Other examples range from the London smog of 1952 (thousands of deaths were falsely attr ...more
Joan
Good information presented well. Again I was outraged by how easily we are lied to by those who are in a position of power to make a difference and how money really speaks in our nation. People are still fodder for their plans for wealth. An informative book about the effects of pollution on our daily health. Such a relief not to live in Salt Lake City any more and be able to see truly blue sky and breath the air freely except when the waste ponds are ripe and the wind is blowing in the wrong di ...more
Julia
This book focuses on the decades of work behind establishing U.S. policies for regulating air pollution and highlights how difficult it is for scientists to be advocates. I found it particularly interesting how this book parallels with the battle to prove that human activity is causing global warming. I definitely recommend this book to my public health people! Also a great read for anyone interested in the politics and science behind the environmental movement.
Owen Carver
Aug 27, 2007 Owen Carver rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone concerned about cancer
This Pulitzer Prize nominee book taught me why environmental pollution causes breast cancer and how the once extensive light rail mass transit system in Los Angeles was systematically destroyed by automobile and gas companies.
The book, in summary, is a history of the fight for basic environmental, and specifically air-pollution, regulations in the United States and how Corporations were able to suppress them for so long.
Suzi
Feb 01, 2008 Suzi is currently reading it
So far so good with this one. Devra Davis has an excellent writing style. Very engaging, which is good since epidemiology could be a very dry subject! I am still in disbelief about the chapter on the Donora smog disaster. Davis also makes some extremely interesting connections in history--relating to how the state of the environment has influenced trends and behaviors in everyday life.
Pamela
Nov 18, 2007 Pamela rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to delve deeper than popular and shallow media
Devra Davis is a well-known, well-respected public health researcher whose work and truth telling has had a private cost, and who shows linkages between environmental toxins and disease, such as breast cancer and how the chemical industrial industry has successfully fought such truths from emerging.
Dave
Good book. It's a little preachy but on the mark as far as ideas. The book does have several clear and concise explanations of complex atmospheric phenomenon (and their effects on people) for the general public. I appreciated the time she spent putting those sections together.
Sara
I wish this book would have been more interesting. It starts out well with the historical aspects of the small Pittsburgh suburb, but then the author delves into complex scientific equations and it's all over. I never did finish it.
Shin Furuya
Collection of various stories of struggles against the pollution. I liked it the way the author addresses different issues through individual cases, made it easier to personalize different issues and pollution as a whole.
Spk
Interesting look at the time line of environmental research to government action and the power of the corporate machine to sabotage and manipulate the research and the policies.
Laura
A must read for anyone who has children and a really good introduction to environmental pollution and the impacts to our health.
Elaine
She was on the 2003 UND Writer's Conference panel. This book is disturbing to read.
Sierra Gergus
Had an amazing message. Was painful for me to read. Glad it's over.
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Devra Davis is an American epidemiologist and writer. Her book When Smoke Ran Like Water, which begins with the tale of the Donora Smog of 1948, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2002. Davis's second book, The Secret History of the War on Cancer, was published by Basic Books in October 2007.

She is currently the director of the Center for Environmental Oncology of the University of Pitt
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