The Blue Death: Disease, Disaster, and the Water We Drink

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Harper Collins, Jul 31, 2007 - Science - 320 pages

With the keen eyes of a scientist and the sensibilities of a seasoned writer, Dr. Robert Morris chronicles the fascinating and at times frightening story of our drinking water. His gripping narrative vividly recounts the epidemics that have shaken cities and nations, the scientists who reached into the invisible and emerged with controversial truths that would save millions of lives, and the economic and political forces that opposed these researchers in a ferocious war of ideas.

In the gritty world of nineteenth-century England, amid the ravages of cholera, Morris introduces John Snow, the physician who proved that the deadly disease could be hidden in a drop of water. Decades later in the deserts of Africa, the story follows Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch as they raced to find the cause of cholera and a means to prevent its spread. In the twentieth century, burgeoning cities would subdue cholera and typhoid by bending rivers to their will, building massive filtration plants, and bubbling poisonous gas through their drinking water. However, with the arrival of the new millennium, the demon of waterborne disease is threatening to reemerge, and a growing body of research has linked the chlorine relied on for water treatment with cancer and stillbirths.

In The Blue Death, Morris dispels notions of fail-safe water systems. Along the way he reveals some shocking truths: the millions of miles of leaking water mains, constantly evolving microorganisms, and the looming threat of bioterrorism, which may lead to catastrophe. Across time and around the world, this riveting account offers alarming information about the natural and man-made hazards present in the very water we drink.


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Daniel.Estes - LibraryThing

I am one of those people who takes for granted the water I drink. At least I did until I read The Blue Death by Robert D. Morris. The first part of the book takes the reader through the height of ... Read full review

THE BLUE DEATH: Disease, Disaster, and the Water We Drink

User Review  - Kirkus

Cholera, whose victims' blood is so viscous from dehydration that oxygen-deprived tissues turn blue, is just one of the scourges of contaminated drinking water vividly described in this collection of ... Read full review


List of Illustrations
The Blue Death
Snow on Cholera
All Smell Is Disease
The Experimentum Crucis
The Doctor the Priest and the Outbreak at Golden Square
The Great Stink
Thirsty Cities and Dirty Water
Spring in Milwaukee
The Hidden Seed
At War with the Invisible
Death in Ontario
Surviving the Storm
The Worst Place on Earth
From E Coli to al Qaeda
Strategies for Safe Water A Modest Proposal

The Scramble for Pure Water
The TwoEdged Sword

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About the author (2007)

Dr. Robert D. Morris is an internationally recognized expert in the field of drinking water and health. His work has been featured throughout the media, including Dateline NBC, the New York Times, the BBC, and The Times of London. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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