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Green Intelligence: Creating environments that protect human health

Stephanie Wallis

14th September, 2009

We live in an increasingly chemical world. Anyone wanting more information about the dangers will welcome this book by John Wargo

Every year billions of pounds of chemicals are released into the environment. Yet, as environmental professor John Wargo discusses in his latest book Green Intelligence, we innocently accept them into our every day lives.

As Wargo draws on case studies from some of the most relevant chemical contaminations to occur in the last seventy years, including the Chernobyl disaster and the use of DDT, the reality is startling.

We are drawn into the worlds of some of the communities who have been affected by chemical pollution and in many cases, the lack of government initiatives to curb the problems.

Wargo paints a broad, ugly picture of many aspects of chemical pollution in our environment - from large-scale weapons testing, to our exposure to diesel from cars, to the pesticides in our back yards. As he points out, studies have revealed that diesel, for example, is a major contributor in the rising prevalence of respiratory disease of children in the United States.

The question of why the use of potentially damaging chemicals has been allowed to occur - and why it continues to happen right underneath our noses - is a question that perhaps we don't ask enough.

In many cases, as Wargo explains, we believe that the benefits of these chemicals outweigh their negative impacts, when, in reality, many of them are toxic and exposure can lead to serious health problems.

Take the DDT dilemma, for instance. The pesticide DDT is still used to combat malaria in some countries, but it can have toxic affects on the surrounding environment and can eventually, via the food chain, make its way into the bodies of those in the community.

As Wargo points out, the problem areas we need address when considering chemical pollution often start with misinformation, and barriers to the public knowing the truth about some chemicals.

If misinformation is a key issue, Wargo rightly advises us on how we may learn from society's chemical mishaps and how, through awareness we can reduce or avoid our personal exposure to chemicals.

Those wanting to make sense of society's growing reliance on chemicals, and the government's failure to manage it, will welcome Green Intelligence. It is a hefty read, as can be expected with an insightful book discussing the chemical invasion, but Wargo provides solutions - albeit predictable ones.

Wargo's proposed strategy for winning the chemical war is sensible: we need to create an environmentally intelligent society, one that is conscious of the ways in which humanity is transforming the chemistry of the environment and our bodies.

His clear-eyed approach offers transparency and a solution to the frenzy of chemical misinformation in our lives.

Green Intelligence: Creating environments that protect human health  by John Wargo (£25, Yale University Press)

 

 

 

 

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