Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation

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Bantam Books, 2013 - Biography & Autobiography - 538 pages
164 Reviews
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND KIRKUS REVIEWS

“A thrilling journey through the twists and turns of cancer epidemiology, Toms River is essential reading for our times. Dan Fagin handles topics of great complexity with the dexterity of a scholar, the honesty of a journalist, and the dramatic skill of a novelist.”—Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

The riveting true story of a small town ravaged by industrial pollution, Toms River melds hard-hitting investigative reporting, a fascinating scientific detective story, and an unforgettable cast of characters into a sweeping narrative in the tradition of A Civil Action, The Emperor of All Maladies, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

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 legal settlements in the annals of toxic dumping. A town that would rather have been known for its Little League World Series champions ended up making history for an entirely different reason: a notorious cluster of childhood cancers scientifically linked to local air and water pollution. 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.

In an astonishing feat of investigative reporting, prize-winning journalist Dan Fagin recounts the sixty-year saga of rampant pollution and inadequate oversight that made Toms River a cautionary example for fast-growing industrial towns from South Jersey to South China. He tells the stories of the pioneering scientists and physicians who first identified pollutants as a cause of cancer, and brings to life the everyday heroes 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.

A gripping human drama rooted in a centuries-old scientific quest, Toms River is a tale 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.

Praise for Toms River

“It's high time a book did for epidemiology what Jon Krakauer's best-selling Into Thin Air did for mountain climbing: transform a long sequence of painfully plodding steps and missteps into a narrative of such irresistible momentum that the reader not only understands what propels enthusiasts forward, but begins to strain forward as well, racing through the pages to get to the heady views at the end. And such is the power of Dan Fagin's Toms River, surely a new classic of science reporting . . . a sober story of probability and compromise, laid out with the care and precision that characterizes both good science and great journalism.”—The New York Times

“Immaculate research . . . unstoppable reading . . . Fagin's book may not endear him to Toms River's real estate agents, but its exhaustive reporting and honest look at the cause, obstacles, and unraveling of a cancerous trail should be required environmental reading.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Absorbing and thoughtful.”—USA Today
 

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Review: Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation

User Review  - Goodreads

An excellent model of investigative science reporting, in the tradition of A Civil Action and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Fagin weaves a riveting tale of of chemical pollution in Toms River ... Read full review

Review: Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation

User Review  - Cynthia Barnett - Goodreads

An excellent model of investigative science reporting, in the tradition of A Civil Action and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Fagin weaves a riveting tale of of chemical pollution in Toms River ... Read full review

All 12 reviews »

Contents

Two Wa rds Two Hits
14
First Fingerprints
40
On Cardinal Drive
119
Water and Salt
137
Hippies in the Kitchen
157
The Coloring Contest
173
Cases
198
Acceptable Risks
219
Invisible Trauma
308
A Cork in the Ocean
325
Expectations
341
Outsiders
363
Surrogacy
384
Blood Work
403
Associations
418
Legacies
442

Friends and Neighbors
231
Cluster Busting
272
Moving
287
Acknowledgments
463
156
529
Copyright

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About the author (2013)

Dan Fagin is an associate professor of journalism and the director of the Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. For fifteen years, he was the environmental writer at Newsday, where he was twice a principal member of reporting teams that were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. His articles on cancer epidemiology were recognized with the Science Journalism Award of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Science in Society Award of the National Association of Science Writers.

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