ContamiNation: My Quest to Survive in a Toxic World
investigation into the dangers of the chemicals present in our daily
lives, along with practical advice for reducing these toxins in our
bodies and homes, from acclaimed journalist McKay Jenkins.
A few years ago, journalism professor McKay Jenkins went in for a
routine medical exam. What doctors found was not routine at all: a
tumor, the size of a navel orange, was lurking in his abdomen. When
Jenkins returned to the hospital to have the tumor removed, he was
visited by a couple of researchers with clipboards. They had some
questions for him. Odd questions. How much exposure had he had to toxic
chemicals and other contaminants? Asbestos dust? Vinyl chlorine?
Pesticides? A million questions, all about seemingly obscure chemicals.
Jenkins, an exercise nut and an enviro-conscious, organic-garden kind of
guy, suddenly realized he’d spent his life marinating in toxic stuff,
from his wall-to-wall carpeting, to his dryer sheets, to his drinking
water. And from the moment he left the hospital, he resolved to discover
the truth about chemicals and the “healthy” levels of exposure we
encounter each day as Americans.
Jenkins spent the next two years digging, exploring five frontiers of
toxic exposure—the body, the home, the drinking water, the lawn, and
the local box store—and asking how we allowed ourselves to get to this
point. He soon learned that the giants of the chemical industry operate
virtually unchecked, and a parent has almost no way of finding out what
the toy her child is putting in his or her mouth is made of. Most
important, though, Jenkins wanted to know what we can do to turn things
around. Though toxins may be present in products we all use every
day—from ant spray, perfume, and grass seed to shower curtains and, yes,
baby shampoo—there are ways to lessen our exposure. ContamiNation is an eye-opening report from the front lines of consumer advocacy.
Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA
Jenkins, McKay; E.G. Vallianatos
When you order a meal in a restaurant, you won't find malathion, kelthane or arsenic listed
on the menu as an ingredient of your entrée, but these and scores of
other pesticides and dangerous chemicals are in the food we eat. They
are dumped into the environment where they seep into our water supply
and float in the air we breathe. The use of these poisons is approved—or
in some cases, simply ignored—by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Poison Spring documents, in devastating detail, the EPA's
corruption and misuse of science and public trust. In its half-century
of existence, the agency has repeatedly reinforced the
chemical-industrial complex by endorsing deadly chemicals, botching
field investigations, turning a blind eye to toxic disasters, and
swallowing the self-serving claims of industry. E. G. Vallianatos, who
saw the EPA from the inside for more than two decades with rising
dismay, reveals in Poison Spring how the agency has allowed our
lands and waters to be poisoned with more toxic chemicals than ever. No
one who cares for the natural world, or for the health of future
generations, can ignore this powerful exposé.
What’s Gotten Into Us: Staying Healthy in a Toxic World
What’s Gotten into Us?
is a deep, remarkable, and empowering investigation into the
threats—biological and environmental—that chemicals now present in our
Do you know what chemicals are in your shampoo? How about your
cosmetics? Do you know what’s in the plastic water bottles you drink
from, or the weed killer in your garage, or your children’s pajamas? If
you’re like most of us, the answer is probably no. But you also probably
figured that most of these products were safe, and that someone—the
manufacturers, the government—was looking out for you. The truth might
After experiencing a health scare of his own, journalist McKay
Jenkins set out to discover the truth about toxic chemicals, our
alarming levels of exposure, and our government’s utter failure to
regulate them effectively. What’s Gotten into Us? reveals how dangerous, and how common, toxins are in the most ordinary things, and in the most familiar of places:
- Our water: Thanks to suburban sprawl and
agricultural runoff, 97 percent of our nation’s rivers and streams are
now contaminated with everything from herbicides to pharmaceutical
- Our bodies: High levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals from
cosmetics, flame-retardants from clothing and furniture, even
long-banned substances like DDT and lead, are consistently showing up in
human blood samples.
- Our homes: Many toxins lurk beneath our sinks and in our basements,
of course, but did you know that they’re also found in wall-to-wall
carpeting, plywood, and fabric softeners?
- Our yards: Pesticides, fungicides, even common
fertilizers—there are enormous, unseen costs to our national obsession
with green, weed-free lawns.
What’s Gotten Into Us? is much more than a wake-up call. It
offers numerous practical ways for us to regain some control over our
lives, to make our own personal worlds a little less toxic. Inside,
you’ll find ideas to help you make informed decisions about the products
you buy, and to disentangle yourself from unhealthy products you don’t
need—so that you and your family can start living healthier lives now,
and in the years to come. Because, as this book shows, what you don’t
know can hurt you.
Bloody Falls of the Coppermine: Madness, Murder and the Collision of Cultures in the Arctic, 1913
the winter of 1913, high in the Canadian Arctic, two Catholic priests
set out on a dangerous mission to do what no white men had ever
attempted: reach a group of utterly isolated Eskimos and convert them.
Farther and farther north the priests trudged, through a frigid and
bleak country known as the Barren Lands, until they reached the place
where the Coppermine River dumps into the Arctic Ocean.
Their fate, and the fate of the people they hoped to teach about God,
was about to take a tragic turn. Three days after reaching their
destination, the two priests were murdered, their livers removed and
eaten. Suddenly, after having survived some ten thousand years with
virtually no contact with people outside their remote and forbidding
land, the last hunter-gatherers in North America were about to feel the
full force of Western justice.
As events unfolded, one of the Arctic's most tragic stories became
one of North America's strangest and most memorable police
investigations and trials. Given the extreme remoteness of the murder
site, it took nearly two years for word of the crime to reach
civilization. When it did, a remarkable Canadian Mountie named Denny
LaNauze led a trio of constables from the Royal Northwest Mounted Police
on a three-thousand-mile journey in search of the bodies and the
murderers. Simply surviving so long in the Arctic would have given the
team a place in history; when they returned to Edmonton with two Eskimos
named Sinnisiak and Uluksuk, their work became the stuff of legend.
Newspapers trumpeted the arrival of the Eskimos, touting them as two
relics of the Stone Age. During the astonishing trial that followed, the
Eskimos were acquitted,despite the seating of an all-white jury. So
outraged was the judge that he demanded both a retrial and a change of
venue, with himself again presiding. The second time around,
predictably, the Eskimos were convicted.
A near perfect parable of late colonialism, as well as a rich
exploration of the differences between European Christianity and Eskimo
mysticism, Jenkins's Bloody Falls of the Coppermine possesses the
intensity of true crime and the romance of wilderness adventure. Here is
a clear-eyed look at what happens when two utterly alien cultures come
into violent conflict.
The Last Ridge: The Epic Story of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division and the Assault on Hitler's Europe
the winter of 1939-40, after a tiny band of Finnish mountain troops
brought the invading Soviet army to its knees, an amateur skier names
Charles Minot "Minnie" Dole convinced the United States Army to let him
recruit an extraordinary assortment of European expatriates, wealthy ski
bums, mountaineers, and thrill-seekers and form them into a unique band
of Alpine soldiers. These men endured nearly three years of grueling
training in the Colorado Rockies and in the process set new standards
for both soldiering and mountaineering. The newly forged 10th Mountain
Division finally faced combat in the winter of 1945, in Italy's Apennine
Mountains, against the seemingly unbreakable German fortifications
north of the Gothic Line. There, they planned and executed what is still
regarded as the most daring series of nighttime mountain attacks in
U.S. military history, taking Mount Belvedere and the sheer treacherous
face of Riva Ridge to smash the linchpin of the German army's lines.
The White Death: Tragedy and Heroism in an Avalanche Zone
forces become natural disasters only when they get in the way of human
endeavor." So writes author McKay Jenkins in his extraordinary natural
history of one of the most treacherous and beautiful of these forces:
the avalanche. Drawing on newspaper accounts, snow science, folklore,
and interviews with the rare survivors, he traces the path avalanches
have carved through the ages. In 213 BC, Hannibal lost more than 18,000
troops and a number of elephants to an avalanche in the French Alps.
Austrian forces, recognizing their destructive power, deliberately
triggered them to frighten and confound Italian troops during the First
World War. In lucid prose, Jenkins interweaves this history with a
tragic account of an avalanche that claimed the lives of five young
climbers trying to push the limits of their skills and courage in
Glacier National Park. Just as Sebastian Junger'sThe Perfect Storm recreates the sensation of drowning,The White Death places the reader in the middle of a climber's worst nightmare: being
buried alive in a torrent of snow and ice. The 1999 avalanche season
broke records across continents, and as long as we keep pushing into the
world's wild places, we'll continue to reckon with this unpredictable
killer. The White Death merges history with adventure and a
love of nature's extremes; it is gripping reading for armchair travelers
and seasoned mountaineers alike.
The South in Black and White: Race, Sex, and Literature in the 1940s
Chapel Hill, NC:
University of North Carolina Press,
the nation as a whole during the 1940s was halfway between the Great
Depression of the 1930s and the postwar prosperity of the 1950s, the
South found itself struggling through an additional transition, one
bound up in an often violent reworking of its own sense of history and
regional identity. Examining the changing nature of racial politics in
the 1940s, McKay Jenkins measures its impact on white Southern
literature, history, and culture.
Jenkins focuses on four white Southern writers--W. J. Cash, William
Alexander Percy, Lillian Smith, and Carson McCullers--to show how they
constructed images of race and race relations within works that
professed to have little, if anything, to do with race. Sexual isolation
further complicated these authors' struggles with issues of identity
and repression, he argues, allowing them to occupy a space between the
privilege of whiteness and the alienation of blackness. Although their
views on race varied tremendously, these Southern writers' uneasy
relationship with their own dominant racial group belies the idea that
"whiteness" was an unchallenged, monolithic racial identity in the