Cutting Edge > Geology and Human Health > Bookshelf


'Tis the good reader that makes the good book; a good head cannot read amiss: in every book he finds passages which seem confidences or asides hidden from all else and unmistakeably meant for his ear.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a collection of books, recommended by the community, that may be useful in numerous instructional activities. These texts are from the popular press, and represent a range of interests related to geology and human health; some are written from a singular "point of view" and may represent disparate or controversial agendas, philosophies, or values. All provide the opportunity for student learners to apply critical thinking skills, to evaluate the evidence presented, and to identify fundamental scientific principles (or perhaps flaws in the evidence and interpretations). Read well!

A Civil Action
In Woburn, Massachusetts, several young children have been stricken with leukemia and one of the mothers, suspecting that their drinking water was polluted with industrial waste, initiates a lawsuit against two of the nation's largest corporations. It was an unequal contest: two mighty corporations, commanding the finest legal representation money can buy, leveled against a few working-class families. Author Jonathan Harr has given the reader a riveting insider's look at not only the legal issues and maneuvers involved in this important lawsuit, but at the human drama and tragedy that can get lost all too easily among the legal details.
Harr, J., 1995, A Civil Action: New York, Vintage Books, 521pp

Science in the Courtroom--The Woburn Toxic Trial--a "mock trial" exercise Using "A Civil Action" to Explore Interfaces Between Science, Citizen Action, Public Health, and the U.S. Legal System, created by Scott Bair, Ohio State University.
Living Downstream
Sandra Steingraber, biologist, poet, and survivor of cancer in her twenties, brings all three perspectives to bear on one of the most important health and human rights issue of our time: the growing body of evidence linking cancer to environmental contamination. Her scrupulously researched scientific analysis ranges from the alarming worldwide patterns of cancer incidence to the sabotage wrought by cancer-promoting substances on the intricate workings of human cells.
Steingraber, S., 1997, Living Downstream: Addison-Wesley Publishing, 357pp
An Air That Kills: How the Asbestos Poisoning of Libby, Montana Uncovered a National Scandal
The true story of the decades-long poisoning of a small town and the definitive expos途such infamous pollutants as dioxins, PCBs, and DDT, along with thousands of lesser-known hazards—are produced when chlorine gas is used to make plastics, paper, pesticides, and many industrial chemicals. In a thorough and accessible analysis, biologist Joe Thornton shows how global organochlorine pollution is already contributing to infertility, immune suppression, cancer, and developmental disorders in humans and wildlife. He lays out a democratically controlled program to replace the production and use of chlorine gas and its derivatives with safer, effective, and economically feasible alternatives.
Thornton, J., 2001, Pandora's Poison: Chlorine, Health, and a New Environmental Strategy: MIT Press, 611pp
Making Better Environmental Decisions: An Alternative to Risk Assessment
For the past quarter-century, government and the private sector have relied heavily on risk assessment for making decisions, allowing widespread environmental deterioration. In this book, Mary O'Brien recommends a simple yet profound shift to another decision-making technique: "alternatives assessment." Instead of asking how much of a hazardous activity is safe (which translates into how much damage the environment can tolerate), alternatives assessment asks how we can avoid or minimize damage while achieving society's goals. O'Brien not only makes a persuasive case for alternative assessment; she tells how to implement it. She also shows how this technique has profound implications for public health, for our stewardship of the environment, and for a truly democratic government.
O'Brien, M., 2000, Making Better Environmental Decisions: An Alternative to Risk Assessment: MIT Press, 352pp
Ecological Medicine: Healing the Earth, Healing Ourselves
Drawn largely from presentations given at the annual Bioneers Conference, this pathfinding book focuses on pragmatic solutions emerging at the fertile edges between the overlapping worlds of environmental restoration and holistic healing. In this collection, many of the world's leading health visionaries show us how human health is inescapably dependent on the health of our environment.
Ausubel, K., ed., 2004, Ecological Medicine: Healing the Earth, Healing Ourselves: San Francisco, Sierra Club Books, 248pp
Protecting Public Health and the Environment: Implementing the Precautionary Principle
The precautionary principle challenges governments, industries, scientists, and citizens to act wisely and well. Fundamentally, as this important book demonstrates, this newly rediscovered old rule shifts the burden of proof to those who have long benefited from and exploited ignorance. Raffensperger and Tickner, who exemplify the tradition of engaged science, have assembled an impressive group of writers to produce a book that should influence the next stage of public health and environmental protection.
Raffensberger, C., Tickner, J., eds. 1999, Protecting Public Health and the Environment: Washington, Island Press, 385pp
Nursing, Health, and the Environment: Strengthening the Relationship to Improve the Public's Health
America's nurses, an estimated 2 million strong, have little formal preparation for the field of environmental health, though they're often the first health-care providers people look to for information on environmental exposure to potential hazards, including in the workplace. This report from an Institute of Medicine committee explores the impact that environmental hazards have on the health of individuals and communities and proposes specific strategies for preparing nurses to address them.
Pope, A., Snyder, M. and Mood, L., eds., 1995, Nursing, Health and the Environment: Strengthening the Relationship to Improve the Public's Health: Washington, National Academy Press, 288pp
Naturally Dangerous: Surprising Facts About Food, Health, and the Environment
Full of surprising anecdotes, curious facts and historical oddities, this book explores a wide range of topics concerning the health and safety of natural and artificial foods and connects observations from our everyday lives to the scientific principles that explain them. You will find information about organic produce, irradiated foods, trans fat and fat substitutes, natural herbs, designer drugs, smallpox, Mad Cow Disease, Prions, Anthrax, cancer, DNA testing, global warming, acid rain, aphrodisiacs, pheromones, and much more. The author has avoided scientific jargon and mathematics to make this book accessible and interesting to both general readers and scientists alike.
Collman, J.P., 2001, Naturally Dangerous: Surprising Facts About Food, Health, and the Environment: University Science Books, 194pp
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
Waste Equals Food: Guided by this principle, McDonough and Braungart explain how products can be designed from the outset so that, after their useful lives, they will provide nourishment for something new. They can be conceived as "biological nutrients" that will easily reenter the water or soil without depositing synthetic materials and toxins. Or they can be "technical nutrients" that will continually circulate as pure and valuable materials within closed-loop industrial cycles, rather than being "recycled"—really downcycled—into low-grade materials and uses. Drawing on their experiences in (re) designing everything from carpeting to corporate campuses, McDonough and Braungart make an exciting and viable case for putting eco-effectiveness into practice. and show how anyone involved with making anything can begin to do so as well.
Braungart, M., McDonough, W., 2002, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things: New York, North Point Press, 193pp
Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Own Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival?
Written by two leading environmental scientists and an award-winning environmental journalist, Our Stolen Future gives a gripping account that traces birth defects, sexual abnormalities, and reproductive failures in wildlife to their source—synthetic chemicals that mimic natural hormones, upsetting normal reproductive and developmental processes. By threatening the fundamental process that perpetuates survival, these chemicals may be invisibly undermining the human race.
Colborn, T., Dumanoski, D., and Myers, J.P., 1996, Our Stolen Future: New York, Penguin Books, 316 pp
Environmentalism Unbound: Exploring New Pathways for Change
This book proposes a new strategy for social and environmental change that involves reframing and linking the movements for environmental justice and pollution prevention. According to Gottlieb, the environmental movement's narrow conception of environment has isolated it from vital issues of everyday life, such as workplace safety, healthy communities, and food security, that are often viewed separately as industrial, community, or agricultural concerns. This fragmented approach prevents and awareness of how these issues are also environmental issues.
Gottlieb, R., 2001, Environmentalism Unbound: Exploring New Pathways for Change: Cambridge, MIT Press, 396pp
Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood
This month-by month story of the author's pregnancy and childbirth weaves into its telling new discoveries about genetics, the intricate unfolding of embryonic organs, the architecture of the fetal brain, and the astonishing transformation of the mother's body as it prepares to nourish and protect the new life. At the same time, Steingraber reveals the alarming extent to which environmental hazards—from the industrial poisons found in amniotic fluid to the toxic contamination of breast milk—now threaten each crucial stage of infant development. Never before have the environmental dangers to conception, pregnancy and to the continuation of healthy human generations been described with such clarity and urgency.
Steingraber, S., 2001, Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood: Cambridge, Perseus Publishing, 342 pp
Environmental Health and Nursing Practice
This is the first book for nurses on how the environment affects nursing practice. Nurses should be concerned with environmental issues for two reasons: many diseases (such as asthma and lead poisoning) are caused by exposures to toxins in the environment, and hospitals themselves are sources of pollutants through release of mercury and dioxin. This book includes information on basic environmental health principles and common environmental health hazards. It offers a patient assessment tool for exposure to these hazards and strategies for "greener" use of hospital resources.
Sattler, B. and Lipscomb, J., eds., 2003, Environmental Health and Nursing Practice: New York, Springer Publishing, 380 pp
Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You
This reference is a fascinating assessment of the level of threat posed by various illnesses, accidents, environmental pollutants and other factors. Expert authors David Ropeik and George Gray include information on top environmental hazards, likelihood of exposure, and ways to reduce your risk, as well as topics such as cancer, radiation, pesticides, and more.
Gray, G., Ropeik, D., 2002, Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You: New York, Houghton Mifflin Co., 496pp
The Perception of Risk
The concept of risk is an outgrowth of our society's great concern about coping with the dangers of modern life. In an excellent overview of the critical issues involved in risk perception, this volume examines issues such as: societal risk taking; decision making in mental health law; rating risks; facts versus fears; informing and educating the public about risk; perceived risks and the politics of nuclear waste; and perceived risk, trust and democracy.
Slovic, P., 2000, The Perception of Risk: Earthscan Publications, Ltd., 518pp
Clinical Environmental Health and Toxic Exposures
This is the revised edition of a collection of 117 contributions that discuss general principles of environmental health, including prevention and safety issues, organ systems, occupational hazards, and health hazards of specific toxic exposures. It has a chapter on each toxic element (lead, mercury, cadmium, etc.) and is an excellent source for information about the medical impacts of human exposure to trace elements in the environment.
Krieger, G.R., Sullivan, J.B., eds., 2001, Clinical Environmental Health and Toxic Exposures: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 1323pp
Geology and Health: Closing the Gap
This book is an integration of papers from geo-bio-chemical scientists on health issues of concern to humankind worldwide, demonstrating how the health and well-being of populations now and in the future can benefit through coordinated scientific efforts. International examples on dusts, coal, arsenic, fluorine, lead, mercury, and water borne chemicals that lead to health effects are documented and explored. Introductory essays by the editors highlight some of the progress toward scientific integration that could be applied to other geographic sites and research efforts.
Skinner, H.C.W. and Berger, A.R., eds., 2003, Geology and Health: Closing the Gap: Oxford University Press, 192pp
The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World
Using statistical information from internationally recognized research institutes, Lomborg systematically examines a range of major environmental issues that feature prominently in headline news around the world, including pollution, biodiversity, fear of chemicals, and the greenhouse effect, and documents that the world has actually improved. He supports his arguments with over 2500 footnotes, allowing readers to check his sources. Concluding that there are more reasons for optimism than pessimism, he stresses the need for clear-headed prioritization of resources to tackle real, not imagined, problems.
Lomborg, B., 2001, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World: Cambridge University Press, 540pp
The Secret Life of Dust: From the Cosmos to the Kitchen Counter, the Big Consequences of Little Things
Focusing on one of the constants of life on earth--dust, in all its myriad forms--Holmes explores biology, astronomy, climatology, pathology, and host of other fields to examine the role dust plays in planetary evolution, allergies, lung disease, dinosaurs, pollution, and more.
Holmes, H., 2001, The Secret Life of Dust: From the Cosmos to the Kitchen Counter, the Big Consequences of Little Things: New York, John Wiley & Sons, 240pp
Essentials of Medical Geology: Impacts of the Natural Environment on Public Health
This reference volume emphasizes the interrelationships of geological processes to the health and diseases of humans and animals. It helps explain the geologic origins and flow of toxic elements in the environment that lead to human exposure via food and water. More than 80 chapters provide numerous examples of the environmental influences on human health. In particular, the book addresses speciation, bioaccessibility and bioavailability of trace elements in soils and subsurface rocks, provides overviews of numerous key concepts, and summarizes the hazardous properties of naturally occurring minerals and chemicals in the rock and soils. The appendix contains tables on natural elements in rocks and soils, international action levels, health effects of all elements, epidemiological features and more. This book may be used both as a reference and as the basis for a course on medical geology.
Selinus, O., 2005, Essentials of Medical Geology: Impacts of the Natural Enivronment on Public Health: Academic Press, 832pp
Asbestos and Other Fibrous Materials : Mineralogy, Crystal Chemistry, and Health Effects
This comprehensive sourcebook describes the chemical, physical, and mineralogical aspects of fibrous inorganic materials, both synthetic and naturally occurring. A general description of the fibrous state, the range of compounds that can adopt this form, and an overview of the characteristics unique to such materials form the backbone of the book . The authors also assess the application and use of asbestos and other fibrous materials in industry and evaluate their potential as health hazards. The information gathered here will be highly useful to medical investigators and legal professionals involved in environmental health.
Skinner, C.W., Ross, M. Frondel, C., 1988, Asbestos and Other Fibrous Materials : Mineralogy, Crystal Chemistry, and Health Effects: Oxford University Press, 222pp
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