web site hit counter A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind

Availability: Ready to download

A "powerful and indispensable book" on the devastating consequences of environmental racism--and what we can do to remedy its toxic effects on marginalized communities. Did you know... Middle-class African-American households with incomes between $50,000 and $60,000 live in neighborhoods that are more polluted than those of very poor white households with incomes less than $ A "powerful and indispensable book" on the devastating consequences of environmental racism--and what we can do to remedy its toxic effects on marginalized communities. Did you know... Middle-class African-American households with incomes between $50,000 and $60,000 live in neighborhoods that are more polluted than those of very poor white households with incomes less than $10,000. When swallowed, a lead-paint chip no larger than a fingernail can send a toddler into a coma. One-tenth of that amount will lower IQ. Nearly two out of every five African-American homes in Baltimore are plagued by lead-based paint. Almost all of the 37,500 Baltimore children who suffered lead poisoning from 2003 to 2015 were African-American. From injuries caused by lead poisoning to the devastating effects of atmospheric pollution, infectious disease, and industrial waste, Americans of color are harmed by environmental hazards in staggeringly disproportionate numbers. This systemic onslaught of toxic exposure and institutional negligence causes irreparable physical harm to millions of people across the country--cutting lives tragically short and needlessly burdening the health care system. But these deadly environments create another insidious and often overlooked consequence: robbing communities of color, and America as a whole, of intellectual power. The 1994 publication of The Bell Curve and its controversial thesis, catapulted the topic of genetic racial differences in IQ to the forefront of a renewed and heated debate. Now, in A Terrible Thing to Waste, award-winning science writer Harriet A. Washington adds her incisive analysis to the fray, arguing that IQ is a biased and flawed metric, but that it is useful for tracking cognitive damage. She tears apart the spurious notion of intelligence as an inherited trait, using copious data that instead point to a different cause of the reported African American-white IQ gap: environmental racism--a confluence of racism and other institutional factors that relegate marginalized communities to living and working near sites of toxic waste, pollution, and insufficient sanitation services. She investigates heavy metals, neuro-toxins, deficient prenatal care, bad nutrition, and even pathogens as chief agents influencing intelligence to explain why communities of color are disproportionately affected--and what can be done to remedy this devastating problem. Featuring extensive scientific research and Washington's sharp, lively reporting, A Terrible Thing to Waste is sure to outrage, transform the conversation, and inspire debate.


Compare

A "powerful and indispensable book" on the devastating consequences of environmental racism--and what we can do to remedy its toxic effects on marginalized communities. Did you know... Middle-class African-American households with incomes between $50,000 and $60,000 live in neighborhoods that are more polluted than those of very poor white households with incomes less than $ A "powerful and indispensable book" on the devastating consequences of environmental racism--and what we can do to remedy its toxic effects on marginalized communities. Did you know... Middle-class African-American households with incomes between $50,000 and $60,000 live in neighborhoods that are more polluted than those of very poor white households with incomes less than $10,000. When swallowed, a lead-paint chip no larger than a fingernail can send a toddler into a coma. One-tenth of that amount will lower IQ. Nearly two out of every five African-American homes in Baltimore are plagued by lead-based paint. Almost all of the 37,500 Baltimore children who suffered lead poisoning from 2003 to 2015 were African-American. From injuries caused by lead poisoning to the devastating effects of atmospheric pollution, infectious disease, and industrial waste, Americans of color are harmed by environmental hazards in staggeringly disproportionate numbers. This systemic onslaught of toxic exposure and institutional negligence causes irreparable physical harm to millions of people across the country--cutting lives tragically short and needlessly burdening the health care system. But these deadly environments create another insidious and often overlooked consequence: robbing communities of color, and America as a whole, of intellectual power. The 1994 publication of The Bell Curve and its controversial thesis, catapulted the topic of genetic racial differences in IQ to the forefront of a renewed and heated debate. Now, in A Terrible Thing to Waste, award-winning science writer Harriet A. Washington adds her incisive analysis to the fray, arguing that IQ is a biased and flawed metric, but that it is useful for tracking cognitive damage. She tears apart the spurious notion of intelligence as an inherited trait, using copious data that instead point to a different cause of the reported African American-white IQ gap: environmental racism--a confluence of racism and other institutional factors that relegate marginalized communities to living and working near sites of toxic waste, pollution, and insufficient sanitation services. She investigates heavy metals, neuro-toxins, deficient prenatal care, bad nutrition, and even pathogens as chief agents influencing intelligence to explain why communities of color are disproportionately affected--and what can be done to remedy this devastating problem. Featuring extensive scientific research and Washington's sharp, lively reporting, A Terrible Thing to Waste is sure to outrage, transform the conversation, and inspire debate.

30 review for A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    An infuriating exposé detailing how minority children are being poisoned in America A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind is meticulously researched and shows how those in poor and minority communities in America are routinely exposed to toxins, ones that often affect brain development and lower IQs in children and fetuses. The author Harriet A. Washington spends the first part of the book discussing IQ, what it is and what it isn't and why it's impor An infuriating exposé detailing how minority children are being poisoned in America A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind is meticulously researched and shows how those in poor and minority communities in America are routinely exposed to toxins, ones that often affect brain development and lower IQs in children and fetuses. The author Harriet A. Washington spends the first part of the book discussing IQ, what it is and what it isn't and why it's important in Western countries. She also shows how IQ testing can shed light on "environmental racism" -- racism that manifests itself through the government routinely allowing those in African American and Hispanic communities to be exposed to heavy metals, neuro-toxin and other chemicals known to be a hazard to both physical and mental health. Contrary to the racist myth that those of recent African descent (my stress on 'recent' is because we ALL originally came from Africa) have lower IQs, Ms. Washington shows how race does not factor into intelligence at all. There are no genes known to raise IQ and, as she notes, "the early experience of the brain and nervous system is far more important when it comes to intelligence. In the second part of the book, Ms. Washington examines various toxins, such as mercury, lead, arsenic, PCBs, and many others. She discusses specific cases of poisoning, people and communities across the country, showing how environmental racism has impacted their lives and worsened their health.  In the third and final section of the book, the author suggests various courses of action people can take within their own homes and communities to try to better protect themselves. Though I appreciate the extensive amount of research Ms. Washington conducted, the book is as weighty as it is infuriating. I found it tedious and repetitive at times, which made it hard to focus my entire concentration as it deserves. It is packed with numerous statistics to back up the author's claims, something which I appreciate, even though it sometimes made the writing feel scholarly and dry. I am glad to be made more aware of this blight on America. A Terrible Thing to Waste is an important book shedding light on a subject we as a country need to know about and desperately need to work to change.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kara Babcock

    The common reaction to people seeing what I was reading with A Terrible Thing to Waste was, “Environmental racism? What’s that?” So I explained it to them, fairly succinctly I think, because it really isn’t that difficult of a concept. Indeed, when I mentioned that, historically, decisions about where to dump waste and where to build factories and how to zone cities or rent houses have disproportionately affected marginalized and racialized people, most of those who asked nodded and went, “Oh, y The common reaction to people seeing what I was reading with A Terrible Thing to Waste was, “Environmental racism? What’s that?” So I explained it to them, fairly succinctly I think, because it really isn’t that difficult of a concept. Indeed, when I mentioned that, historically, decisions about where to dump waste and where to build factories and how to zone cities or rent houses have disproportionately affected marginalized and racialized people, most of those who asked nodded and went, “Oh, yeah.” Maybe that’s just a sign of the crowd I hang out with. But it really isn’t that hidden, not in an era where we know the names Flint, Michigan in the United States and Grassy Narrows, here in Canada. Harriet A. Washington’s book isn’t edifying in the sense that it reveals this heretofore unseen racism. Rather, A Terrible Thing to Waste is electrifying in the depth to which Washington chronicles the scientific background of this phenomenon, the historical connections, and the social and economic consequences. Thank you to the publisher for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. Washington begins with a frank discussion on IQ. I found this beneficial, and indeed, I appreciated the way in which she challenged some of my views. Aware of the racist associations with IQ testing, I was in the camp of “throw it all out.” Yet Washington points out that, although not really great for measuring general intelligence as it first claimed, IQ tests do seem to correlate with many of the skills that predict success in a lot of the office-type jobs that predominate in America these days. So in that sense, I guess I see the utility of such a measure, even if what we do with it is ill-advised. Washington reminds my privileged white self that as long as IQ is used in any serious form, it behoves us to try to level the playing field of IQ testing, as it were, rather than simply pretend it doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter. From there, of course, she delves into the nature of IQ testing and its racist background. Then she pivots into discussing neurotoxins (such as lead) and their effect, especially cumulatively and especially on children. I want to warn you: parts of this book are just heartbreaking. It’s sickening—and frankly should be sickening to any reader—to think that right now millions of people are exposed to debilitating toxins simply because of where they live. I challenge you to listen to how poor, Black families can’t even sell their homes because the pollution on their land has gutted the value, trapping them in a vicious cycle of toxic poverty. Reading this book, I continually thought back to my country and our treatment of Indigenous peoples. I mentioned Grassy Narrows, famously a site of mercury contamination. But resource exploitation and colonialism go hand-in-hand in my country; hundreds of kilometres north of my city, the government and industry are anxiously attempting to build the Ring of Fire, a multi-billion-dollar mining operation for diamonds, chromite, and other important resources. The trouble is, this will inevitably result in environmental contamination—and it won’t be me who is exposed. It’ll be the First Nations who live in northern Ontario, some of them already in communities with poor drinking water. So Canada is little better than the States when it comes to this issue. A Terrible Thing to Waste is laudable too in its multidimensional approach to this issue. Washington doesn’t just talk about lead poisoning or dumping, oh no. She talks about malnutrition. She talks about preventable, treatable diseases that rob us of brainpower. She covers so many aspects of this issue, each time relating it back to the fact that this is a race issue, because, as she says, even poor white communities are typically healthier than well-off Black communities. (She does note limitations of the research she uses. She says she wishes she could have explored poverty as a separate variable more, but that there is actually a dearth of data, especially when it comes to poor white people. And that is definitely a problem.) Washington makes an interesting appeal to the reader in relating this problem to economic shortfalls. In addition, of course, to simply pointing out that this is racist and wrong, she argues that this hobbles America as an economic power. It diminishes the country's average IQ, and it robs the country of thousands of minds who might otherwise be bright, innovative, and useful. Honestly, this line of argument left me a little uneasy. I don’t like the idea of treating people as capital, of thinking about our potential based on how it impacts the bottom line. Nevertheless, I see what Washington is doing here. She’s trying to fight the racist capitalists on their own turf. She points out that the data do not support hereditarians who think “nothing can be done.” And thank goodness for that. A Terrible Thing to Waste is harrowing and heartbreaking at points. It’s also chock full of logic, facts and figures, basically all sorts of cool science. It’s exactly the kind of non-fiction I want to read: social justice polemic backed up by research and challenging me to consider the ways in which our society fails marginalized people. Because I am a part of that society, and I need to know about this, in as much detail as I can handle, so I can start doing something about it. There was a time when companies lied to us and said lead was good for us. That time has passed. But the lies don’t go away; they just change costuming. We need to keep learning, and keep pressuring those in power, especially those of us who have the privilege of doing so in comfort and safety.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lois

    This was incredibly well researched and while the subject matter is weighty, the writing style is easily accessible. This is critical reading to understand the IMPACT of the IQ myth of the Black Community in the US and worldwide. First many of the original West African Black subjects tested for IQ were orphaned children fleeing conflict. Also the researchers measuring the IQ were white supremacists. Both factors impact these original IQ scores. Also nutrition and environment impact IQ scores. The h This was incredibly well researched and while the subject matter is weighty, the writing style is easily accessible. This is critical reading to understand the IMPACT of the IQ myth of the Black Community in the US and worldwide. First many of the original West African Black subjects tested for IQ were orphaned children fleeing conflict. Also the researchers measuring the IQ were white supremacists. Both factors impact these original IQ scores. Also nutrition and environment impact IQ scores. The history of how this has been used is demoralizing. I appreciate this crucial understanding of how IQ and Black identity intersect. Also the IQ is NOT a measurement of intelligence, just in case you don't read the book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Leanne

    Environmental racism is an incredibly important issue that is often ignored in our political zeitgeist, even within environmentalist circles. The strongest section of this book is the lead section, where she weaves a direct line from corporate greed through government irresponsibility through housing discrimination tied up with racism specifically against African Americans. It helps that a large chunk of the data and anecdata around environmental racism are lead-related, which points to why the Environmental racism is an incredibly important issue that is often ignored in our political zeitgeist, even within environmentalist circles. The strongest section of this book is the lead section, where she weaves a direct line from corporate greed through government irresponsibility through housing discrimination tied up with racism specifically against African Americans. It helps that a large chunk of the data and anecdata around environmental racism are lead-related, which points to why the later sections of the book are less coherent. This book is disorganized. There's a common practice among academics of which I'm also guilty, which is that they'll scour the literature and then try to smash every single bit of data into their lit review, resulting in a paper that doesn't really flow but is technically complete. I feel that a lot here. There's a lot of, "oh, and also chlorpyrifos" and "and by the way here's one bit of data about Asians" without much context or transition, just a tossaway sentence that is there apparently because that's the only place it fit. The same can be said of the graphics, which range from inexplicable word clouds to random pictures of scientists to highly technical tables. None of the graphics are referred to in the text, making them seem like they were thrown in after the fact, and making it unclear why they were necessary at all. There is a lot of tonal inconsistency, which makes this book frustrating to read. The effect of environmental racism on the brain is a particularly difficult task to study because many of the so-called markers of intelligence have their own correlations with racism, e.g. through the design of IQ tests, biases against black and brown children during diagnosis of learning disabilities, and school segregation and lack of universal pre-K leading to racial disparities in test scores and grades. While she directly addresses these correlations in one chapter, she goes on to rely on IQ as THE metric of intelligence in later chapters, mostly because that's just what data is available. Towards the end of the book, especially in the section on infectious diseases, the data on intelligence is so sparse that the argument becomes incoherent. It's also difficult to cover environmental racism because these problems are structural and the people who are disproportionately affected have little power to fix the issue of, for example, exploitative and irresponsible landlords. Appropriately, she condemns those who stigmatize people of color, especially mothers of color, for not doing enough to address environmental hazards. However, if part of the structural issue is lack of information, wouldn't it be irresponsible not to share ways to, for example, avoid childhood lead poisoning? Rather than strike a balance between these two poles, she careens between them, at times saying, "It's not your fault" and other times saying, "You must do all of these things!" This is particularly acute in the later chapter where she bullet points an unbearable number of measures that people are supposed to take, including buying expensive water filters and not buying any food with plastic wrapping, advice that is unfeasible in many of the communities hardest hit by environmental racism, many are which are food deserts and have high rates of poverty. Who exactly was that chapter written for? The characters in Big Little Lies? Particularly toward the end of the book, I found the data pile up to be unreadable, where it was just one statistic after another about a hazard lurking just behind you, that disproportionately affects people of color, with no context for why that is. Because the data seems to just not be there yet, I would have preferred a book that cut specifically across lead in predominantly black communities, the social and political sources of it, and systemic recourse required to address it. I feel like this book takes a pathologist's eye toward environmental hazards, but it needs a bit more of a political scientist's eye. The section on community organizing is about two pages of bullet points, where instead it needed a full chapter of examples of successful movements and specific proposed policy changes. Too much emphasis is placed on the individual and not enough on the system.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I want to note a few of the recurring trends in how big businesses deal with peddling toxic chemicals, for anyone wanting to identify what's going on in the rhetoric. This also applies equally to those companies who are currently profiting despite their negative impact on the environment, and their direct and easy to identify connection to the heating of this planet. 1. Get your product out there, toxic or not. Have you already identified that your product has some minor problems? Is it causing I want to note a few of the recurring trends in how big businesses deal with peddling toxic chemicals, for anyone wanting to identify what's going on in the rhetoric. This also applies equally to those companies who are currently profiting despite their negative impact on the environment, and their direct and easy to identify connection to the heating of this planet. 1. Get your product out there, toxic or not. Have you already identified that your product has some minor problems? Is it causing employees who work with it major health problems, including insanity or death? No worries. Feel free to continue production. With lead, its health effects were well known BEFORE it was used as an additive for gasoline. Even acknowledging the harmful nature of the product in internal memos while contradicting this in your marketing materials is unlikely to bring about any actual repercussions, financial or otherwise. 2. Don't know if it's hazardous? Don't bother testing. Just don't. You aren't required to test a new chemical before mass production, so why add steps? Move on to step 3. 3. Obfuscate. Now your products are in the homes of people and are getting stuck in the mouths of babies. Suddenly, IQ rates are declining, health side effects are rising, the crime rate is going up. Some studies are indicating your product is responsible. But can they PROVE it beyond a shadow of a doubt? Can they eliminate all other possible factors? Can they recreate their findings? Moreover, can they do this while you work to discredit and sue the scientists and academics doing the work to prove your product is to blame? Can their scientists out-argue the "scientists" you hire to make it look like there's no agreement? With a reasonable effort, you should remain in stage 3 for decades at least. 4: Personal Responsibility + Racism = Profit. It is a CHOICE to have bought and used your product, and the people who are getting sick are just using it wrong. If your hazardous product is one of the many hazardous products that has been knowingly used most often in poor and/or black or other minority neighborhoods, it is especially easy to put the responsibility back on those getting sick, since so many people don't give a shit about minority groups anyway. Those sick children have irresponsible parents. And you can simultaneously make the argument that the US government is mostly at fault for allowing poverty to be a thing in the first place. Seriously. . . this was part of the lead industry's defense. This has some parallels to climate change as well. Deflect responsibility for the environment back on the individual consumer. The solution is a good recycling program, and composting, and driving an electric car. If someone suggests systemic changes or regulations that would infringe upon your freedom (as a business) to vomit toxic chemicals into the environment wherever you wish to, use all the money you've made from manufacturing these toxic chemicals to make sure those systemic changes and regulations never see the light of day. 5. Shrug and Move On. In the unlikely event that government regulations DO end up shutting you down, simply sue the government for the future profits you would have made if you'd remained open. Declare bankruptcy and leave it to the government to solve the problem of cleaning up your messes. Chances are these costs will be too high for politicians to take them seriously, and a half-assed gradual plan for making the environment less toxic will happen over decades. Or maybe they will think it's enough that no more toxic chemicals are entering the environment, and they're okay with ongoing health side effects in the neighborhoods and environments you chose to fuck over. Either way, you don't give a shit. You are now rich, and you can move on to a new product or consulting job. The stink of your chemicals, and all the people you have irreversibly harmed by your actions, won't follow you. Maybe you can go into politics :-)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth StClair

    I want to say I enjoyed this book, but to be honest, it was a struggle to read. And not because of the material covered (I was prepared for the environmental racism, and learned much about the development of a child's mind), but because of the organization of the book itself. Frankly, it took too long to read this book, and by the end, I was skimming. It's poorly organized, repetitive, and easily distracted from one sentence to the next. Some of the data quoted confused me, such as a citation th I want to say I enjoyed this book, but to be honest, it was a struggle to read. And not because of the material covered (I was prepared for the environmental racism, and learned much about the development of a child's mind), but because of the organization of the book itself. Frankly, it took too long to read this book, and by the end, I was skimming. It's poorly organized, repetitive, and easily distracted from one sentence to the next. Some of the data quoted confused me, such as a citation that the African American infant mortality is greater now than it was during enslavement. Additional, a quotation from WebMD did nothing to assuage my irritation at the book. The general material is important. Understanding environmental racism is important. I was fascinated by just how much development goes on early in life, and how so many environmental factors can hinder this growth. However, it was hard for me to continue reading when facts were constantly repeated and each sentence had little to do with the next. The second section is full of scientific jargon, which lost me at times, then followed up by a brief almost checklist of how to enact change, lead-proof one's home (even though this is impossible without full abatement as mentioned earlier), and a whole list of other suggestions that the average reader, much less someone aggressively experiencing environmental racism, most likely didn't even get to. I wanted to like this book, that's why I kept reading. I wanted to learn more, and I did. But this book needed another serious edit and restructuring before publication. This topic is too important to have wasted words and wasted pages. If you are interested in learning about environmental racism, you should reading this book. But you need only read the first chapter or so. I'm glad I read this book, but I was frustrated at the wrong thing the entire time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    There is a (perhaps) lesser known aspect of American racism whereby people and institutions assume blacks are dumber than whites, that they are untrainable and don’t deserve as much pay for the same work as whites. Blacks don’t think clearly or fast enough, they don’t process or retain well, and they’re slow to move, think and speak. Harriet Washington shows in no uncertain terms that blacks have been systematically neglected and poisoned into this condition in A Terrible Thing To Waste. In chapt There is a (perhaps) lesser known aspect of American racism whereby people and institutions assume blacks are dumber than whites, that they are untrainable and don’t deserve as much pay for the same work as whites. Blacks don’t think clearly or fast enough, they don’t process or retain well, and they’re slow to move, think and speak. Harriet Washington shows in no uncertain terms that blacks have been systematically neglected and poisoned into this condition in A Terrible Thing To Waste. In chapters jam-packed with statistics and scientific findings, Washington shows that blacks get Alzheimer’s at twice the rate of suburban whites who don’t live with the same polluted air, soil and water. Whites don’t breathe the lead paint dust in their homes or drink water from lead pipes. Lead is the biggest villain the book. It attacks forming brains of infants and even fetuses, ensuring perverse developments later in life. For example, only 56% of lead-exposed students in Baltimore graduate high school. It affects behavior too, as black children grow into violence and crime. She gives the examples of well-meaning people who can’t fill out a form to apply for a job, to the point of not being able to remember their own birthdate. At the other extreme, a highly skilled child starting in a new school was automatically put into a special needs class with illiterates simply because he was black. Until his mother demanded he be tested - against the will of the teachers and officials - and fought their refusal to do so, assuming that all black children were dim. To lead, add iodine, the lack of which is the single biggest cause of mental retardation, Washington says. Grocery deserts don’t provide the fresh produce that would allow for sufficient iodine. For a hundred years, the US has mandated iodine be added to salt to alleviate the shortage, but it is not enough, and the fashion for iodine-free sea salt exacerbates it. So all of America is dumbing down. The (white) establishment does little or nothing to remediate the situation, keeping blacks in impoverished slums, moving garbage dumps into their neighborhoods, and allowing factories to spew whatever they want. The extent of the arrogance can be seen in Anniston, Alabama. There, Monsanto hired a University of Mississippi professor to prove that the waters flowing through the town were not polluted by Monsanto’s dumping of millions of pounds of PCBs. The first test was letting 25 bluegills into the water, to see how they would react. They all died within three and a half minutes. “It was like dunking the fish in battery acid,” according to a team member. Just thirteen years later, Monsanto finally closed the plant. The pollution remains behind for all to enjoy. Kids splash in the streams, vegetable gardens soak it up, the water flows through the taps, and the black community is mentally damaged, generation after generation. The vicious circle starts with low land prices. Factories move in, cheap housing goes up around them. The factories poison the soil, water and air, keeping the local residents from realizing their full potential in life. The factories close down, leaving a bunch of unemployed and unemployable people in housing completely worthless because no one will buy where the air, soil and water will kill them and their children. People can’t even refinance their mortgages because their homes have no value. The cycle of poverty deepens along with the diseases and conditions as local government refuses to throw resources at a hopeless neighborhood. Of blacks. Lest anyone be lulled into thinking this pollution is localized, Washington cites figures that apply everywhere and to everyone: -One in ten samples of organic juices exceeded the level of arsenic permitted by federal law. -80% of infant formulas test positive for lead and/or arsenic. -20% of baby foods contain lead. -All lipsticks contain arsenic. -DDT does not break down in nature. Lead and arsenic persist in soils for decades. -Only 32% of US students show proficiency in mathematics, compared to 50% of Canadians and 63% of Singaporeans using standardized international tests. -Pregnant women should limit their seafood intake to three servings a week due to methylmercury contamination. Even the FDA says no one should eat more than four shrimp – per month. Most saltwater fish are now toxic to humans. -Amyloid plaques and magnetite, the trademarks of Alzheimer’s, develop from air pollution, as seen in autopsies in Mexico City. The USA is far more polluted than most understand it to be, and like the Roman Empire collapsing around its lead-addled ruling class, the whole country is being damaged going forward. Washington cites billions upon billions of dollars diverted into to dealing with the mentally handicapped, who should not be and don’t have to be. Education costs, medical costs, welfare costs, and government oversight are all unproductively needed to deal with a polluted, damaged population. And by far the biggest block of victims is the black population. It is not genetic and not race-based. It is manmade toxicity that is fully preventable, and is, when found in white-majority areas. There is a contradiction throughout A Terrible Thing To Waste. Washington devotes a lot of space to deconstructing and dismissing the notion of IQ. She points out that Alfred Binet invented the Intelligence Quotient or IQ measurement, and from the onset denied that it gave any indication of potential intelligence from birth or race. He said it could only evaluate intelligence for those not already performing adequately. He even refused to rank people using IQ. Washington goes farther, showing how it is an invalid test based on culture and context, such that perfectly intelligent people on other continents show up as morons when given American IQ tests. But then she cites IQ repeatedly throughout the rest of the book, showing that this disease cost 25 million IQ points or that condition cost eight million. That it lowered the average IQ by five points. This makes no sense after her work to dismiss IQ as a valid measure. There is also a lot of repetition. The book could have been a faster read with even more impact given some more editing. But overall, it is a shocking wakeup call to end the voluntary stupidity that racism foists on the vulnerable. Poverty remains the most punished crime in America. David Wineberg

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    Excellent book on environmental racism in America and the effects felt by people both directly and indirectly. Her information about how environmental racism impacts IQ was fascinating and easy to understand. I figured the topic of lead would come up, as well as the situation in Flint, Michigan, but Washington was able to do a deep dive that can still be engaging even if you think you know a bit about the subject. The author does a great job outlining the scientific and medical facts necessary to Excellent book on environmental racism in America and the effects felt by people both directly and indirectly. Her information about how environmental racism impacts IQ was fascinating and easy to understand. I figured the topic of lead would come up, as well as the situation in Flint, Michigan, but Washington was able to do a deep dive that can still be engaging even if you think you know a bit about the subject. The author does a great job outlining the scientific and medical facts necessary to explain this issue while keeping it engaging. Oftentimes I've found that when an author includes too many statistic or scientific words that are way beyond my knowledge I can tune out or skip over it a bit, but Washington is able to artfully weave in those important numbers while still making it easy to understand for the layman. She does a good job of towing the line between presenting the information so that people who have no background in this subject are able to understand, but to also keep it at a level that those who do have solid foundation knowledge can build off of what they already know. This was a really fascinating read about an important topic. I would definitely recommend!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    The issue of environmental racism is one that many are sadly unaware of. There is a great deal of ignorance around the fact that where you live can have a significant impact on your potential for success. There is little discussion regarding how often decisions that can have a deleterious effect on quality of life in these environments are based on race. Consider for example: * The lack of effort to remediate lead-based paint in black neighborhoods. * The frequency with which black neighborhoods a The issue of environmental racism is one that many are sadly unaware of. There is a great deal of ignorance around the fact that where you live can have a significant impact on your potential for success. There is little discussion regarding how often decisions that can have a deleterious effect on quality of life in these environments are based on race. Consider for example: * The lack of effort to remediate lead-based paint in black neighborhoods. * The frequency with which black neighborhoods are chosen for locally unwanted land uses. * That black families are more likely to live in proximity to oil and gas facilities. * The impact of environment and infection on fetal and early childhood development. A result of these environmental factors is often impaired cognitive function. And the self-fulfilling prophesy that black students are often several IQ points behind their white classmates in these areas. But as author, Harriet A. Washington also discusses, the manner in which ways in which IQ is measured is flawed and racially slanted. I’m just scratching the surface of an extremely well-researched book here. The book is statistically dense and heavily footnoted, but the author’s efforts to carefully explain each point and put data in context puts the book with reach of the average reader. I gave it 4, but it was 5 up until the section on what individuals can do about it. It's my opinion that many of the solutions offered were unrealistic for those living in poverty such as buying bottled water or filters if the water in the area has heavy metals, etc. Washington discusses the problems with a the quality and potential toxicity of foods sold in dollar stores, but in areas that are food deserts, dollar stores are often the only choice for groceries. She recommends home-canning, but many people can’t afford the equipment to can correctly and safely and may not have the storage space for what they can. In a way, it reminds me of charter schools, which are technically open to everyone, but without at least one engaged parent who isn’t working three jobs are not a real option. The next chapter provides what I consider more realistic solutions such as community involvement and political activism. It’s tough to combat an institutional problem as an individual, but there is power in numbers. I recommend that nearly everyone read this book, it’s full of data, information and insight on the many ways that institutional racism plays out in the environment. This honest review is based on an ARC copy of the book I won through Goodreads.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Corvus

    Harriet Washington is known by many as the author of the harrowing and important "Medical Apartheid" in which she details a long history of medical and scientific abuse of Black individuals and communities. I consider this mandatory reading for any US American. "A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and its Assault on the American Mind," brings a whole new dimension of horror of what it is like to be Black, Brown, and/or poor in the USA. She tackles everything from exposure to dangerou Harriet Washington is known by many as the author of the harrowing and important "Medical Apartheid" in which she details a long history of medical and scientific abuse of Black individuals and communities. I consider this mandatory reading for any US American. "A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and its Assault on the American Mind," brings a whole new dimension of horror of what it is like to be Black, Brown, and/or poor in the USA. She tackles everything from exposure to dangerous pollutants to lack of access to healthy options and astutely describes how they all fit together in the realm of environmental racism. The book starts off fairly quickly in discussing IQ disparities among poor people and/or people of color and this remains a theme throughout the book. I did find this part to contradict itself a bit, though. Washington makes excellent arguments about and gives a detailed history of how flawed IQ testing is. Yet, she still uses IQ points as a measure of environmental racism. Her book actually stands well on it's own without inclusion of this metric, or at least without centering it as much as she did. She also repeatedly uses the r-word and seems to lack the necessary analysis of disability justice that would be appropriate for this work. I have a review copy, so this could be something that has been or will change in the future printing. But, someone should have picked up on or sought out the fact that "Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities," is the correct way to discuss what she was speaking about. There was also a slight air of "disabled people are a drain on their families and society" which contributes to the ableist notion that people with intellectual disability do not offer anything to society or have a purpose. I am not saying people should seek out or want their children to be born with I&DD, nor should they lack upset for the higher rate of preventable illness and/or disability in their communities. I just think Washington could have been a bit more careful with her words here and that she or an editor should have picked up on the reality that using r*****ed- a term known as a common insult that many I&DD and Deaf people connect with extreme trauma- was not appropriate. Her description of the flaws, pseudoscience, and racial bias involved with IQ testing was excellent and it becomes clouded by the flaws in delivery. Washington's book is organized in such a way that someone can skip around if they need to. This does mean that sometimes there is repetition, but it also is valuable for people unfamiliar with the topic to be reminded or for people only interested in reading one section out of order. Topics covered in different sections include lead and other pollutant poisoning, the extreme differences between fetal, childhood, and adult reactions to exposure, food deserts with copious access to only convenience and liquor stores' attachment to environmental racism, lack of access to appropriate medical care, and what is possibly the most horrifying as far as the squick factor goes- "Bugs in the System." The details of lead poisoning from the unethical and abusive lead exposure experiments on Black and/or poor children and families in Baltimore to the water crisis in Flint are written in an incredibly engaging way. Toxic exposure is not simply that the exposure exists, but also all of the corruption and predatory practices of governments, scientists, and corporations that not only allow things to continue, but often actively support the atrocities. Early lead exposure is also linked to future criminal behavior- behaviors that, in white supremacist society, are always blamed on a Black person's character rather than their circumstances. The elements of misogyny/misogynoir and it's link to environmental racism are clear in the sections discussing fetal exposure. Poor women, mostly of color, have been penalized via everything from fines to forced sterilization and/or imprisonment by the criminal injustice system for "feticide" or "abuse" due to exposures during pregnancy- including ones that occurred before they knew they were pregnant. At times, it is used by anti-choice lobbies to further their fight against reproductive autonomy for women and others who can get pregnant. At others, it is a way for governments or corporations to cover their tracks. If I wasn't already vegan, the "Bugs in the System" chapter might have turned me. The chapter details countless bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections that are dangerous for everyone, but end up especially concentrated in Black, poor, and/or other marginalized populations. The reason I mention veganism is that I learned how many parasites are in animal flesh and how easily one can contract them. I was already pretty terrified of parasites. Now, I'm ever more aware and disgusted. Finally, Washington offers a large section with a wide variety of solutions and actions that people can take to fight against environmental racism's effects on their lives. The advice includes healthcare, food consumption, housing access, familial care, legal options, and organizing/activist advice. There are very good suggestions in this section. I'm white but have poverty line income, so I am a person who shops at Dollar Tree tree and cheap stores. I threw out a couple of dishes and won't be buying some foods again, after reading her section on how many dollar stores use imported food and pottery that may contain lead. We in Pittsburgh are already dealing with our own lead water crisis, I don't need even more in my system. I also really appreciate how carefully Washington approached this section. She made sure not to give in to pseudoscience hype like that of anti-vaxxers, anti-any-fluoride, anti-all preservative movements. Yet, she still leaves room for new research and for people to make the decisions about these things that work for them. She acknowledges and validates the reasons why Black people especially may distrust the medical system. She is also firm that vaccines do not cause autism and that mercury that is linked to disease is no longer in most vaccines. She is clear that fluoride's benefit for dental health- especially for those without dental care access- may outweigh any costs or risks involved. She offers a long list of preservatives generally recognized as safe (GRAS) and stresses that these preservatives are healthier than it would be to contract diseases they prevent, but acknowledges that some preservatives are unhealthy and thus avoiding processed foods is always a good idea. Her tips for organizing and activism offer a brief catalogue of the lack of Black and other people of color representation in environmental organizations, despite them being the biggest human targets of many of the problems tackled. This has changed somewhat, but not enough. Overall, A Terrible Thing to Waste is a well written, well researched, and very necessary look at environmental racism. Despite its flaws in disability analysis and representation, it still offers an great amount of important information in a relatively small package (300 pages for all of this info is not very much.) The book hits shelves in July 2019 and is definitely worth picking up. This review is also posted on my blog.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Morgan Malatesta

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Harriet A. Washington has not only done careful research about environmental racism in the United States, but has also relayed the information in such a way that I was consistently appalled by the lack of regulation and information-sharing in this county. For example, I knew that corporations were bad, but I had no idea the lengths they have taken to cover up environmental harm in the name of profit and reputation. I also had no knowledge whatsoever about the actual harm that pesticides, PCBs, a Harriet A. Washington has not only done careful research about environmental racism in the United States, but has also relayed the information in such a way that I was consistently appalled by the lack of regulation and information-sharing in this county. For example, I knew that corporations were bad, but I had no idea the lengths they have taken to cover up environmental harm in the name of profit and reputation. I also had no knowledge whatsoever about the actual harm that pesticides, PCBs, and other chemicals inflict on brain development (which Washington measures through IQ). Black people experience the majority of these negative effects, regardless of their class. And Washington argues that it is ultimately race, not class, that affects your environmental experience in this country! "A study of the 171 largest cities in the United States concluded that there is not even one city where whites live under equal conditions with blacks. "And the worst urban context in which whites reside," avers Williams, "is better than the average living conditions of blacks...One of America's best-kept secrets is how residential segregation is the secret source that creates inequality in the United States" (144-145). Washington ultimately affirms that corporations & the US government have spent a long time "blaming the victim" (e.g. blaming parents when they are unaware of harmful chemicals in their children's food or play spaces) to divert attention from their own environmental crimes against BIPOC in this country. Washington leaves the reader with helpful suggestions for changing personal habits, as well as resources for community action, but ultimately argues that for anything to change, the government needs to impose stricter regulation on toxic exposure (a lot of which is not actually regulated or tested for harmful effects prior to use!) & take responsibility for the harm they have caused. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what I learned while reading this book. I'm looking forward to reading more of Washington's work in the future!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    I have so many feelings about this book. It is well researched, includes a lot of case studies, and makes a really compelling case for the way that racism has played a role in poisoning marginalized people in the US. It's condemning and horrifying and will have you ready to throw things at a wall. At the same time, the book focuses on the mental harm from these poisons, primarily the way that things like lead can cause real mental harm to children and infants. My biggest qualm is that this book I have so many feelings about this book. It is well researched, includes a lot of case studies, and makes a really compelling case for the way that racism has played a role in poisoning marginalized people in the US. It's condemning and horrifying and will have you ready to throw things at a wall. At the same time, the book focuses on the mental harm from these poisons, primarily the way that things like lead can cause real mental harm to children and infants. My biggest qualm is that this book uses the measurement IQ to make this case. IQ obviously comes with a lot of baggage, a lot of which is because of the improper use of IQ and the unsavory way it has been used in eugenics. Washington breaks down the pitfalls of IQ and explains why she uses it in her research in particular in the first chapter of the book - this was a good explanation and allayed a lot of my fears, but ultimately I couldn't quite get past it and several parts of the book rang a little off to me because of this. The author also tries to offer several ways that you can protect yourself if you are in a situation where any of these poisons could be impacting you and your family, but many of the solutions were most suitable for people with a lot of expendable resources, when the focus of the book and the case studies highlighted how environmental racism harms those with the least resources. The final chapter on community organizing was a bit better however. Ultimately, I think this is a really important story, especially in light of the horrors that we know have been inflicted in Flint, Michigan and other communities that I hadn't heard of before, but I wish Washington had chosen another way to measure harm that felt less tied to ableism/eugenics.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tetyana

    Washington presents an overwhelming encyclopedia chronicling the “mental and intellectual devastation wrought by the exposure of marginalized racial groups to toxic environmental contaminants.” I can tell this book will be an invaluable resource of evidence for me, akin to a textbook in your library to which you can come back to again and again, on the disproportionate effect of not only lead poisoning and pollution, but also other “brain thieves” such as heavy metals, neurotoxins, deficient pre Washington presents an overwhelming encyclopedia chronicling the “mental and intellectual devastation wrought by the exposure of marginalized racial groups to toxic environmental contaminants.” I can tell this book will be an invaluable resource of evidence for me, akin to a textbook in your library to which you can come back to again and again, on the disproportionate effect of not only lead poisoning and pollution, but also other “brain thieves” such as heavy metals, neurotoxins, deficient prenatal care, poor nutrition and pathogens on people of color. The book moreover strives to be a compelling call to action by including a tactical guide on how you can better protect yourself and your family from harmful contaminants and how communities can organize to play a role in the environmental justice movement. However, these (debatable whether accessible or not) resources offered only in the latter chapters, which means overall, this book is not for the faint of heart – or maybe I should say faint of spirit for academic research. Laid out almost like a literature review, the statistical data can be overwhelming, disjointed, redundant, and sometimes lacking (due to limited research overall, not necessarily Washington’s own investigation). The graphics did little to support the content as well. Although I’m glad to have taken a moment to learn more about the environmental justice movement, I’m left wondering whether this research would’ve been better presented as a series of more focused articles or books.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    Though her book came out before Covid hit, Washington's look at the impacts of toxic chemical pollution and other environmental harms on communities of color updates environmental justice. . She does talk about other disease threats, especially neglected tropical diseases (NGDs) like chagas and Zika that Americans think don't affect us but actually do hit southern states and their communities of color hard. And surprisingly, aside from their main impacts, these diseases also harm the brain, espec Though her book came out before Covid hit, Washington's look at the impacts of toxic chemical pollution and other environmental harms on communities of color updates environmental justice. . She does talk about other disease threats, especially neglected tropical diseases (NGDs) like chagas and Zika that Americans think don't affect us but actually do hit southern states and their communities of color hard. And surprisingly, aside from their main impacts, these diseases also harm the brain, especially in pregnancy and early childhood. Washington's focus is on brain power but that's just a way to get the reader into the topic of environmental racism. The book like like two-in-one. The first 75% is heavy on public health science. The last quarter is a handbook for protecting your own family and community. While Washington encourages personal vigilance, she concludes that only collective action to stop toxic chemicals getting into our bodies will solve the problem. And that means the government must restrict big rich corporations from taking the cheapest way out. Only activism can make this happen, and Washington invites her reader to join the ranks of those fighting to protect themselves and their communities, a message tailored to a time newly awakened to how black and brown lives matter.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Camille McCarthy

    Washington brings to light the damage of environmental racism on the IQ of people of color through incredibly strong writing and hard-hitting data. This book made me incredibly angry, as we all should be, at how people of color have been treated and are still treated today. She points out how the "achievement gap" may be at least partially attributed to children of color literally being poisoned and robbed of their intellect from environmental factors such as lead paint, PCBs, and polluted air. Washington brings to light the damage of environmental racism on the IQ of people of color through incredibly strong writing and hard-hitting data. This book made me incredibly angry, as we all should be, at how people of color have been treated and are still treated today. She points out how the "achievement gap" may be at least partially attributed to children of color literally being poisoned and robbed of their intellect from environmental factors such as lead paint, PCBs, and polluted air. This book is a must-read, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone going into any industry that involves producing chemical waste or manufacturing chemicals. She incorporates a lot of issues into this book, including the lack of testing of chemicals to tell whether they have adverse effects on people, the discrepancy between effects of chemicals on adults and effects of those same chemicals on children, the burden of proof being on those who are adversely affected rather than those creating chemicals, and the principle of preventing harm before it is caused rather than arguing after the fact that this chemical isn't harmful. She also talks about IQ tests' unreliability and about how attributing differences in IQ to genetic differences between the races is not only racist but incorrect scientifically, and the definition of race being a social construct with no scientific basis. I really appreciated her nuanced writing style, the clarity of the points she was making, and her breadth on this topic. I will definitely be looking for her other writing, and I highly, highly recommend this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    This book changed my life and made me feel like I have been steeped in poison my whole life while also teaching me that there actually are entire communities that are actually steeped in poison. In reading I definitely thought less about IQ and more about cognitive issues arising from environmental racism, but the author does begin with an acknowledgment that IQ is a flawed, yet sometimes useful, metric. I knew a bit about the toxic dumping of materials and the deathly living conditions forced u This book changed my life and made me feel like I have been steeped in poison my whole life while also teaching me that there actually are entire communities that are actually steeped in poison. In reading I definitely thought less about IQ and more about cognitive issues arising from environmental racism, but the author does begin with an acknowledgment that IQ is a flawed, yet sometimes useful, metric. I knew a bit about the toxic dumping of materials and the deathly living conditions forced upon communities inhabited by BIPOC but this book made me understand how intentional and horrific this poisoning is. File under: life changing Learned about: Baltimore, neurological diseases from household pests, IQ, lead poisoning, Flint, superfunds, toxic dumping, mental retardation, environmental racism, medical racism, poverty, pesticides, iodine

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    This book is incredibly well researched and well written. I highly recommend it to everyone. Washington not only covers the connections between intellect and environmental toxins but she gives realistic and helpful ideas for community organizations to fight for their rights.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    A deeply disturbing but sadly unsurprising, deeply research examination of environmental racism in the United States and its catastrophic effects, particularly on the cognitive abilities of non-white American children.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Saima

    I was pretty familiar with the content having worked in this world, but it was a good refresher. Definitely recommend it for people wanting to learn more about the issue.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    This is accessible even for my non-science scholar brain and completely horrifying.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Danni Faith

    This is the scariest book I have ever read. I called my friend and told him how scared I was. I also texted friends of mine to encourage them to read this book. The horrors discussed in this book induce fear and anxiety not because I was unaware of environmental racism, but because I live in New York City, one of the locations discussed in the book, and am aware of the seriousness of asthma in the South Bronx and other parts of New York City that are home to Black and Latinx communities. From th This is the scariest book I have ever read. I called my friend and told him how scared I was. I also texted friends of mine to encourage them to read this book. The horrors discussed in this book induce fear and anxiety not because I was unaware of environmental racism, but because I live in New York City, one of the locations discussed in the book, and am aware of the seriousness of asthma in the South Bronx and other parts of New York City that are home to Black and Latinx communities. From the very first page, Washington comes out swinging! Her claim is thoroughly argued and supported by pretty damning evidence. Sadly, much of what she relays in clear and authoritative prose has been known in communities of color for decades. The complaints of people of color fall on deaf ears at best—mocked or ignored at worst. From poor air quality to (il)legal dumping to failure to inform about and protect against the known health risks of lead, corporations along with local, state and national governmental agencies have assisted in the health decline of thousands of people. Washington's assertion that environmental toxicity has negatively impacted brain development and function such that IQ, a measurement of intelligence, has been adversely affected is a new dimension to the conversation around national health crises. One that I have never considered, but does make sense. I won't be able to stop thinking about this. Everyone, needs to read this. If you're a vegan, a vegetarian, plan to have children, are a person of color, know a person of color, live in a place that was built on land, read this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chasity

    This is insane. I live in Anniston Alabama and while she states the legal side of the whole Monsanto situation and pcbs.. wherever she got her info on the nature of the city is very... VERY.. innacurate. My children play outside all the time. Our parks are just fine. I've NEVER seen anyone cut their grass with a mask, shoo their children away from parks, our children are not eerily quiet, there is NO backdrop of biohazard signs and chain link fence. Our town is like any other town.. I've never h This is insane. I live in Anniston Alabama and while she states the legal side of the whole Monsanto situation and pcbs.. wherever she got her info on the nature of the city is very... VERY.. innacurate. My children play outside all the time. Our parks are just fine. I've NEVER seen anyone cut their grass with a mask, shoo their children away from parks, our children are not eerily quiet, there is NO backdrop of biohazard signs and chain link fence. Our town is like any other town.. I've never heard of any kids being born with two brains. We grow vegetables in our dirt with no problems and they are delicious. Washington clearly needs to learn to go to these places to do her own research instead of obviously taking the word of hypochondriac weirdos who do not represent the rest of the town. I don't know about the other towns in this book but if the depiction is anything like my towns portrayal, on behalf of those residents let me say.. please stop spreading innacurate assumptions about our cities. This is shameful. And on the note of racism.. our town is 49 percent African American.. and 44 percent Caucasian. The rest is made up by Latino and Asian etc. Please stop victimizing the black population that what I've seen as just as healthy and smart as the white population here. Good Lord!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    With the emphasis on climate change and news, it seemed like it would be an interesting read. I know a little about environmental racism but was looking forward to learning more. It was a struggle. The introduction as interesting but then moved to a discussion of IQ. Initially I couldn't quite understand why the author started off with this particular conversation because it seemed like (at first) that it might end up being about something different. Then the book gets really bogged down in scien With the emphasis on climate change and news, it seemed like it would be an interesting read. I know a little about environmental racism but was looking forward to learning more. It was a struggle. The introduction as interesting but then moved to a discussion of IQ. Initially I couldn't quite understand why the author started off with this particular conversation because it seemed like (at first) that it might end up being about something different. Then the book gets really bogged down in scientific terminology and it read like an academic paper that had been repackaged into another book. I do think the information is incredibly important and maybe it has to do with the fact that I am not extremely familiar with the topic. But it wasn't really a text that helped me get a better layperson's understanding of environmental racism. It could very well work for others, though. Recommend the library.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bayley

    Being a science communicator is hard. You have to be able to walk the incredibly fine line of not talking down to the people who are experts in the field while simultaneously trying to convey exactly the right amount to information to make the layman reader understand and not feel overwhelmed or too stupid to keep listening. Harriet Washington does a fantastic job of this. The introduction stars us off on the topic of IQ. I was mildly worried I was not going to enjoy this book because I knew jus Being a science communicator is hard. You have to be able to walk the incredibly fine line of not talking down to the people who are experts in the field while simultaneously trying to convey exactly the right amount to information to make the layman reader understand and not feel overwhelmed or too stupid to keep listening. Harriet Washington does a fantastic job of this. The introduction stars us off on the topic of IQ. I was mildly worried I was not going to enjoy this book because I knew just enough about IQ to be dangerous. But Washington takes the reader on a history of what IQ measures, its flaws and limitations, and defines its use in her book. "Some question how critical IQ is. We’ve long known that IQ measurements, in the United States and around the world, are dramatically biased. We also know that it is not possible to administer the test in a manner that gives meaningful comparisons across a wide variety of cultures. Beyond this, the meaning of “intelligence” varies from culture to culture, it is multifactorial, and IQ tests provide an admittedly limited and biased measure of achievement, not the oft-touted innate ability." (page number to come) "Although IQ scores are not a consistently accurate measure of intelligence, IQ is too important to ignore or to wish away. For Americans, IQ, usually measured by the Stanford-Binet and Wechsler scales, although there are many variants, has proven a predictor of success in school, social settings, work achievement, and lifetime earnings"(page number to come) The way she addressed IQ was interesting, and it gave the reader a solid framework for the book. Washington is very witty, the topic of this book obviously does not leave a lot of room for levity, but the way she addresses some areas of the book made me very interested in scrolling through her twitter, she seems like she is hilarious. Back to the content. Washington takes the reader through different environmental factors that can be detrimental to humans health on multiple levels. She addresses the effects on our bodies and minds and then she dives into the statistics and case studies that show these factors have a higher chance of harming people of color, most often black and indigenous populations. Heavy metals (lots of talk about lead in specific), environmental neurotoxins, microbes, and other chemicals are all delved into during Part 2. She addresses how they harm adults, children, and fetuses, and how dangerously hard it can be to prove they are actually harming people, especially when those people are black. I learned so much while reading this book. It was at times overwhelming with the amount of information I was being introduced to at once, but this book does not require you have an extensive scientific background to understand the point Washington is making. Also, to alleviate the overwhelming amount of horrible reality you will be confronted with, Washington leaves the book on a hopeful note. She gives the reader specific things that can be done and writes hopefully about current and future political action to protect the minds and bodies of all vulnerable people. When I picked this book up I did not know about her past books, now that I have read A Terrible Thing to WasteI will certainly be going through her backlist soon! I will be recommending this book to people interested in public health, structural racism, environmentalism, and nonfiction focused on science. This book is released on July 23rd, 2019. ARC provided by NetGalley, all opinions are honest!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    The book begins with a scathing attack on scientific racism. This is the view that certain races are more intelligent than others based on their genetic makeup. Intellectuals like Charles Murray and Francis Crick have continued a long tradition (a tradition begun to justify slavery) of arguing that it's just the DNA and there's nothing you can do about racial inequities. The methodology of the studies suggesting that blacks are inherently less intelligent was laughable. For example, in places li The book begins with a scathing attack on scientific racism. This is the view that certain races are more intelligent than others based on their genetic makeup. Intellectuals like Charles Murray and Francis Crick have continued a long tradition (a tradition begun to justify slavery) of arguing that it's just the DNA and there's nothing you can do about racial inequities. The methodology of the studies suggesting that blacks are inherently less intelligent was laughable. For example, in places like the USA and Europe the sample of tested participants was pretty representative of the general population. In Ethiopia they only tested some kids from one orphanage. Surprise! The study said that Africans were less intelligent. It's usually your living conditions that make you brain power. Asians traditionally score higher, but as noted here, the rich Asian do better than the poor Asians, despite similar genes. Yet, the advocates of the theory still ran with the conclusions. Another thing is that IQ testing is not an indicator of intelligence. As the creator of IQ testing pointed out, it's a pretty good judge of who will succeed in a first world economy. However, it would judge an illiterate mechanic or farmer in a poor country as just plain stupid if interpreted as an intelligence test, despite their ingenuity and ability to solve problems. So that is the first section of the book. It was a brutal take down and I loved it. The next part focused on environmental and economic factors in intelligence. (And in fairness to Charles Murray, he often said "race and environment" in his controversial statements, while the author and Murray would agree on the environment part, it wasn't mentioned in this book). This sections contained a lot of scientific info on the effects on the brain of certain chemicals and biological agents. It certainly was well researched and pounded out the data and mentioned when examples were anecdotal or needed further research. I just didn't enjoy it as much. I'll just include two quick examples to show the authors point. Exhibit A: In Flint, a predominately black community, the water crisis is still not completely solved. When an auto manufacturer discovered the tainted water was corroding their cars, there water was fixed post haste. Exhibit B: When a white community objected to the Dakota Access Pipeline in their backyard, they had the ability to go through the proper legal channels to get it moved. It moved to the Standing Rock Tribe. They were labeled terrorists for objecting to the same thing. And of course there was shortly an oil spill. And then there are the Superfund sites. When a corporation poisons the environment, they can go bankrupt with their decision makers keeping their gains, and rely on taxpayers to foot the bill of cleanup for decades. It always seems much more sensible to place the effluent in poor and minority areas. This is getting long, so I'll sum up. The idea of the book was great and it started with a bang. I just got bogged down in the scientific analysis of the causes in the latter part (and it also made me feel like I wanted to wash my hands, ew). Thank you to the publisher for the free copy!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Will Payne

    If you wanted to use statistics to find out where an urban landfill is located in the average American city, what variables would you choose? The geology underneath the site? Land values near the site? Perhaps even a low income level of people living near the site? These are all predictive variables, but they are not as powerful as another, unexpected factor: race. Independent of income or any other consideration, Black and Latino neighborhoods in American cities are disproportionately exposed t If you wanted to use statistics to find out where an urban landfill is located in the average American city, what variables would you choose? The geology underneath the site? Land values near the site? Perhaps even a low income level of people living near the site? These are all predictive variables, but they are not as powerful as another, unexpected factor: race. Independent of income or any other consideration, Black and Latino neighborhoods in American cities are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards. This is a troubling fact, especially considering the nature of these hazards: lead exposure, PCBs, air pollution, iodine deficiency, arsenic, pesticides, and mercury all impact the productivity, average IQ, and mental health of the people exposed to them, especially if exposure occurs in utero or during early childhood. America is quite literally poisoning the minds of minority communities. In “A Terrible Thing to Waste,” which was released in July of this year, Harriet Washington (also the author of “Medical Apartheid”) attacks a pervasive lie as old as racism itself: the notion that other “races” are inherently less intelligent than white Europeans, perhaps due to their genetics. Despite being obvious pseudoscience, this notion is surprisingly well-accepted in the modern scientific and pedagogical community. It’s not uncommon for modern sociologists and educators to explain away the racial IQ gap—an effect in which minority students are tested as having lower intelligence than white students—as an inherent feature of these students’ genetic heritage, unchanging and unfixable. This is patently false. One reason, mentioned very frequently, is the inherent bias in IQ testing. A second, much less commonly cited reason is environmentally-mediated cognitive impairment. As Washington outlines in a passionate, thorough argument, the IQ gap (along with many other effects used pejoratively against minorities, such as lower job performance) can be largely explained by the environmental poisoning of minority communities. “A Terrible Thing to Waste” takes its title from the famous United Negro College Fund slogan of the 1980s, “A Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Waste.” While UNCF supported young African American students with college scholarships, Washington focuses on the more insidious ways that a mind can be “wasted.” Before even setting foot in a school, many Black and Latino children are placed at a disadvantage by environmental exposure to toxic chemicals such as lead, which causes the developing brain to mix up critical connections and structures. On average, African American children have twice the blood lead level of white children. From lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan and Baltimore, Maryland, to PCB dumping in Anniston, Alabama, “A Terrible Thing to Waste” takes a serious look at the inequitable distribution of environmental risk in America, combining this analysis with a deft examination of systemic racism.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Marian P

    Harriet Washington’s A Terrible Thing to Waste is a chock-full study of the impact of environmental racism on communities of color in the United States. Washington, a science writer and ethicist, has written prolifically including the acclaimed book Medical Apartheid. Like that book, A Terrible Waste recounts gripping stories of communities in trauma owing to the taint of such toxins as lead, arsenic, and PCBs. The main premise of the book is that dangerous chemicals have tainted the ground, air Harriet Washington’s A Terrible Thing to Waste is a chock-full study of the impact of environmental racism on communities of color in the United States. Washington, a science writer and ethicist, has written prolifically including the acclaimed book Medical Apartheid. Like that book, A Terrible Waste recounts gripping stories of communities in trauma owing to the taint of such toxins as lead, arsenic, and PCBs. The main premise of the book is that dangerous chemicals have tainted the ground, air, and water of POC communities resulting in lowered I.Q.s. After outlining the ways in which I.Q. testing has been historically conducted and also shedding light on the racial gap, Washington moves on to the strength of the book— the infiltration of lead, arsenic, microbes, and other neurotoxins in communities of color. The core of the book is the second part comprised of four chapters on environmental racism. Tellingly, Washington illuminates a lead poisoning case involving more than 30,000 Baltimore children during the 2000s. She suggests that like the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment where African Americans were knowingly left untreated, children were left with toxic levels of lead in their bodies under the Kennedy Krieger Institute-led study. Other chapters examine the impact of waste sites in fence line communities, or communities that border chemical plants; carcinogens in the air; and microbes infested in homes and food. These chapters offer the reader much insight. However, a final section on advocacy seems like it belongs in a different book. In the two final chapters Washington offers advice for dealing with environmental racism in one’s communities, but it is the insistence on taking such actions as breastfeeding and making one’s own baby food at home to ward off toxins in food and water that seems oddly out of place. I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    I've read and am re-reading Washington's more well known book, Medical Apartheid, and that prompted me to find this second book by her. In it, what is noticeable is how she pores over decades of examples and evidence to assess the damage that “environmental poisoning” has on communities of color. I am most persuaded by how she argues that environmental toxins are much more prevalent in areas where marginalized people live, inequitably harming the brains, health, and future of black, Hispanic, an I've read and am re-reading Washington's more well known book, Medical Apartheid, and that prompted me to find this second book by her. In it, what is noticeable is how she pores over decades of examples and evidence to assess the damage that “environmental poisoning” has on communities of color. I am most persuaded by how she argues that environmental toxins are much more prevalent in areas where marginalized people live, inequitably harming the brains, health, and future of black, Hispanic, and Native American children; she identifies the consequences of what is known as a “collective loss” for the nation and staggering medical and economic costs. Washington offers anecdotal evidence and damning data—on, for example, polychlorinated biphenyl pollution in Anniston, Ala.; ongoing lead poisoning in Flint, Mich., and in Baltimore. Perhaps otherwise noted here, is how Washington also makes a persuasive presentation of “brain drainers,” including toxic chemicals, substances such as tobacco, vermin, and dangerous microbes, that disproportionately affect minority populations. I'll note, furthermore, that some may be turned off by how the book leads to frequent repetition, and the intended audience seems to switch from policy makers and Washington’s fellow researchers to parents, as in the third section, which lists actions that might limit or ameliorate children’s exposures to toxins and suggests ways communities might organize in their defense. Overall, I do highly recommend this urgent chronicle of ongoing damage and believe that for others, as it was for me, it will be eye-opening.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Soap

    Actual rating 3.5 I have to dock it a full star because I just could not get through the last 50 pages of the book and didn't want to really try. The last two chapters seem to be primarily about what we as individuals can do to solve a global environmental crisis, which I could see where the author may be coming from trying to present this information, but I definitely feel like this should have additionally targeted large companies, corporations, and governments who are either covering up their Actual rating 3.5 I have to dock it a full star because I just could not get through the last 50 pages of the book and didn't want to really try. The last two chapters seem to be primarily about what we as individuals can do to solve a global environmental crisis, which I could see where the author may be coming from trying to present this information, but I definitely feel like this should have additionally targeted large companies, corporations, and governments who are either covering up their environmental disrespect or straight up lying about it. It is an overwhelming amount of pressure to put on an individual (even though yes, absolutely, there are things each of us could be doing to make the world a better, healthier place) to fix some of these things, and things such as where your school district is located or installing a water filter in your home seems to kind of skip over some of the problems also prevalent with environmental racism (which the author discusses in her book) which is poverty. I also was kind of confused by the argument she was trying to make with IQ. It seemed like she cast it out as an antiquated system of measurement for children's intelligence, but then continually referred back to it as something we needed to fix (something to fix=low IQ rates in children). I am just confused on what to think about it because of this. Overall, it is incredibly informative (the first ~250 pages or so) but I don't know that I would highly highly recommend it to someone.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bakari

    I’m so glad I didn’t wait to read this book. “A Terrible Thing to Waste” is highly informative, and definitely a must-read for everyone. Some people may say that the book is depressing. I didn’t that to be the case. Instead, I learned many things I didn’t previously know or thought deeply about. For instance, I’ve been well aware of the the negative affects of air pollution and lead poisoning, but I never thought how a polluted water supply, iodine deficiency in one’s diet, and or other forms of I’m so glad I didn’t wait to read this book. “A Terrible Thing to Waste” is highly informative, and definitely a must-read for everyone. Some people may say that the book is depressing. I didn’t that to be the case. Instead, I learned many things I didn’t previously know or thought deeply about. For instance, I’ve been well aware of the the negative affects of air pollution and lead poisoning, but I never thought how a polluted water supply, iodine deficiency in one’s diet, and or other forms of endocrine disrupters not only cause physical harm, but also neurological harm and the lowering of IQ. This book is not dry reading. Harriet Washington uses her journalistic writing skills to bring awareness to the economic and social consequences of not adequately testing the over sixty thousands chemicals, pesticides, and forms toxicity found or used in food, water, home building, cosmetics, clothing, farm production, and other things we consume or interact with. If you're like me and you don't suffer from say asthma, chronic headaches, slow cognitive abilities, you may take for granted that there is little wrong with the air we breathe, but it is a problem for African-Americans and Hispanic people who disproportionally live in environmentally toxic environments near landfills, industrial plants, and in decaying cities and rural areas. Though I haven't read her book, “Medical Apartheid”, I imagine like this book it exposes forms institutionalized racism that largely those in power choose to ignore or make excuses. As it’s often said on Twitter, “People in Flint still don't have clean water." I'm looking forward to reading Washington’s other books, because the information and awareness of what she presents is seriously important.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.