The Great Lead Water Pipe Disaster

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MIT Press, 2006 - History - 318 pages
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In The Great Lead Water Pipe Disaster, Werner Troesken looks at a long-running environmental and public health catastrophe: 150 years of lead pipes in local water systems and the associated sickness, premature death, political inaction, and social denial. The harmful effects of lead 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 water beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, and an editorial in the New York Herald called for the city to study the matter after a bizarre illness made headlines in 1868. But officials took no action for many years. New York City, for example, did not take any steps to reduce lead levels in water until 1992, long after the most serious damage had been done. By then, in any case, much of the old lead pipe had been replaced with safer materials.

Troesken examines the health effects of lead exposure, analyzing cases from New York City, Boston, and Glasgow and many smaller towns in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and England. He draws on period accounts, government reports, court decisions, 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 official intransigence. He presents an accessible overview of the old and new science of lead exposure—explaining, for example, why areas with soft water suffered more harmful effects than areas with hard water. And he gives us compelling and vivid accounts of the people and politics involved. The effects of lead in water continue to be feThe Great Lead Water Pipe Disaster is essential reading for understanding this past and ongoing public health problem.
 

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The great lead water pipe disaster

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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 ... Read full review

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Contents

1 The Significance of the Small
9
2 A House for Erasmus
25
3 Fixing Alice
51
4 The Latent History of Eclampsia
77
5 The Secret of Dr Porritts Society
99
6 A False Sense of Simplicity
123
7 Responsibility in the Court of the Absurd
141
8 The Legend of Loch Katrine
169
9 Building on the Past
201
Appendix A Estimating the Effects of Lead Water Pipes on Infant and Fetal Mortality
209
Appendix B A Statistical Supplement to The Menace and Geography of Eclampsia
243
Appendix C The Correlates of Lead Solvency
251
Notes
255
References
285
Index
311
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Page 292 - JOHN HENRY GARRETT, MD Licentiate in Sanitary Science and Diplomate in Public Health, Universities of Durham and Cambridge, &c. THE ACTION OF WATER ON LEAD; being an inquiry into the Cause and Mode of the Action and its Prevention. Crown 8vo, 4s. 6d.
Page 300 - Annual Report of the Metropolitan Board of Health, of the State of New York, 1867.
Page 298 - Survey for cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, nickel, lead, zinc, calcium, and magnesium in Canadian drinking water supplies.
Page 286 - Lee, et. al. 2004. Life under pressure: Mortality and living standards in Europe and Asia, 1 700-1 900.

About the author (2006)

(MIT Press, 2004).

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