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Dan Fagin (1) (1962–)

Författare till Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation

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Om författaren

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. His work has been recently published in Nature, The New York Times, Scientific American, and Slate and he is visa mer also the coauthor of Toxio Deception. Visit for more information. visa färre
Foto taget av: Journalist Dan Fagin at the 2015 Texas Book Festival. He won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction for his book Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation. By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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Outstanding book!
Industrial pollution on a monumental scale
Incompetent local, state, and federal agencies doing nothing to prevent it or stop it
A coordinated campaign to lie to the citizens
A excellent breakdown of why it is nearly impossible to prove cause and effect regarding cancer rates of those living near toxic sites.
Excellent book! Read it if you think the government is any better than the company’s doing the polluting.
zmagic69 | 32 andra recensioner | Mar 31, 2023 |
People familiar with the 1998 John Travolta movie “A Civil Action” will find similarities between that story and Dan Fagin’s book Toms River. Both deal with industrial chemical contamination of local water supplies with grave consequences. Toms River, the title and subject of Dan Fagin’s book, is a shore town in South Jersey, which at the latter part of the 20th century, started to experience high cancer rates, especially among children. Fagin’s book explains how carcinogens were getting into the local water supply, as well as the difficulty investigators had in tracing the source of the chemicals. What makes the story compelling is not just the historical facts, but hearing about advances in epidemiology, about the new technology needed to identify the contaminants and trace them back to the source, and more importantly, the personal stories of local families working to bring the evidence to light and to fight and insist that local officials look into the problem. If it wasn’t for the persistence of some of the local people fighting to be heard, the cause of the high cancer rate may never have been determined.

I had suspected that ”Toms River” might end up being a condemnation of "evil chemical companies" and inept regulators and inspectors, but significant to me was the recognition of the sad state of knowledge of environmental protection and impacts as recently as the 1950's and '60's. As Fagin mentions, the Ciba Chemical Company never appeared to realize that their wastes were causing a problem for the community at large. Yet they were able to recognize that their wastes were polluting their own water wells use for on-site services, and as a result they simply moved their discharge lines further away from their own water wells. Moving their discharges away from their on-site wells placed their wastes closer to the Toms River public water supply. And all that was done with the approval of State regulators, since the company's plans were "consistent" with practices in use at the time.

The end result was high concentrations of chemicals being introduced into the Toms River and local water wells. It’s ironic, but when Ciba Chemical mover to Toms River and opened a new dye plant in 1953, the Ciba spokesperson told locals that the facility would improve the water quality of the Toms river, not pollute it, and that effluent released to the Toms River would be clear and pure and in no way contaminate the stream or harbor. If only that was true.

Another sad element in the story was the lack of oversight by the State and local officials. Instead, the Company was welcomed to the community and provided with favored treatment because of the expected economic benefit to the community. When the plant opened, the N.J. Governor stated that Ciba was taking a risk in opening the factory, and thus should be entitled to reap the rewards without excessive taxation or government interference. However, without effective government oversight and collection of taxes, tons of chemical waste were dumped, leading to high cancer rate in the area, and little or no municipal money available to clean it all up.

Mr. Fagin’s writing was basically non-political, focusing on the illnesses caused by chemical company wastes and the people involved and impacted, however there were a few gentle gibes at local Republican officials, specifically over being anti-regulation involving these companies, and insisting on keeping taxes low for these polluters, meaning cleanup and treatment costs weren't adequately funded.

I thought it interesting that the author never tried to make a point that the chemical company carelessly dumped their waste products knowing or even suspecting it would harm the community. Likewise, neither local, State nor company officials ever suspected that the plant discharges would lead to poisoning the water supply and lead to excessive cancer rates in the area. Things were much different in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.

I think the book provides a good lesson for today, showing that water contamination can occur in unusual ways, and protections need to be made part of our city planning decisions and industrial permitting processes.
… (mer)
rsutto22 | 32 andra recensioner | Jul 15, 2021 |
nonfiction (science, industry, history, politics - dirty stuff).
reader1009 | 32 andra recensioner | Jul 3, 2021 |
Research and Stories Combine to Tell a Tragic Story

"Toms River" details an appalling, decades-long horror story of business and government gone wrong. The town, Toms River, New Jersey, is home to a Swiss chemical firm's manufacturing and testing facility. The firm, Ciba-Geigy, is an out-of-control polluter that is enabled by uncaring government watchdogs and greedy politicians.

Within the book are several themes: 1) an impeccably researched history of Toms River with contemporary and current interviews, 2) a history of environmental management in industry, and 3) a history of cancer and the research involved in the disease. Each chapter mixes several of these themes, creating a very coherent narrative that concentrates on the New Jersey town in the second half of the 1900s.

As part of the history of the town, Fagin has found heartbreaking stories about various forms of rare cancer that have been prevalent there. The stories are moving in their tragedy. I've never considered myself much of an environmentalist, but after reading "Toms River," it's clear why people need environmental protections. The lesson is obvious: when governments allow polluters to run amok, real people will suffer the consequences.

The research is excellent. Fagin includes plenty of sources along with copious footnotes, which are not necessary to the understanding of the book, but provide detailed information for anyone looking for more. Fagin has done current interviews with many of the key figures involved in the Toms River debacle, including housewives, midnight chemical dumpers, plant managers, Greenpeace activists, union members, nurses, politicians, and cancer survivors. In addition, he reaches centuries back in order to tell the reader about the progress, or lack-thereof, in industry and medicine.

The only knock against this book is more of a knock against myself. I am not particularly interested in some of the science behind chemical pollution. Fagin does not dwell on it too much, but it was enough to make the book a little less quick than what I am used to.

This book is well worth a read for anyone interested in environmental science, cancer, town histories, and the relationship between industry and politics.
… (mer)
mvblair | 32 andra recensioner | Aug 9, 2020 |



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