The Great Lead Water Pipe Disaster
In The Great Lead Water Pipe Disaster, Werner Troesken looks at a long-runningenvironmental and public health catastrophe: 150 years of lead pipes in local water systems and theassociated sickness, premature death, political inaction, and social denial. The harmful effects oflead water pipes became apparent almost as soon as cities the world over began to install them.Doctors and scientists noted cases of acute illness and death attributable to lead in public waterbeginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, and an editorial in the New York Herald calledfor the city to study the matter after a bizarre illness made headlines in 1868. But officials tookno action for many years. New York City, for example, did not take any steps to reduce lead levelsin water until 1992, long after the most serious damage had been done. By then, in any case, much ofthe old lead pipe had been replaced with safer materials.Troesken examines the health effects oflead exposure, analyzing cases from New York City, Boston, and Glasgow and many smaller towns inMassachusetts, New Hampshire, and England. He draws on period accounts, government reports, courtdecisions, and economic and demographic analysis to document the widespread nature of the problem,the recognized health effects--particularly for pregnant women and young children--and officialintransigence. He presents an accessible overview of the old and new science of leadexposure--explaining, for example, why areas with soft water suffered more harmful effects thanareas with hard water. And he gives us compelling and vivid accounts of the people and politicsinvolved. The effects of lead in water continue to be felt; many older houses still have leadservice pipes. The Great Lead Water Pipe Disaster is essential reading for understanding this pastand ongoing public health problem.
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The great lead water pipe disasterUser Review - Book Verdict
This is a 150-year chronological history of one of the most overlooked health problems of modern times-the prevalence of lead pipes in municipal water supplies and the public health consequences of this dilemma. Troesken (history, Univ. of Pittsburgh) cites cases as early as 1860 showing that corrosive lead pipes in the water systems of New York, Boston, Glasgow, and other cities and towns in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and England were responsible for fetal, childhood, and adult diseases that mystified doctors and public health officials. Doctors who identified lead as the culprit and made their findings public were ignored or chastised. Neglect and duplicity by political officials who assured the public that lead piping posed no threat to their health allowed this problem to languish until the 1990s, when lead pipes were banned or replaced with safer materials. However, Troesken warns that water lead levels are still a concern in municipalities in Latin America, Europe, and the United States, particularly in older buildings and water systems that have not been upgraded. A real shocker. Recommended for all public health collections.-Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., NY