The thesis of the book appears to be that we waste and pollute a vitally important resource because we don't value it enough. Unfortunately, those points are not made because the book is riddled with factual errors, ignorance of scientific terminology, misleading and/or alarmist statements, and bad editing.
As examples: methane is not toxic nor is iron a poison as Mr. Prud'homme claims they are. Those are just two of the erroneous statements that serve to undermine the credibility of the book. But, more on them later.
On page 41 there is a reference to an abandoned copper mine "...the thirty-nine-thousand-foot-deep pit..."
39,000 feet is equal to 7.4 miles. The deepest mine shaft in the world is the TauTona gold mine in the Witwatersrand region of South Africa, which is currently working at depths of 12,800 feet. Such a vast, deep pit that Prud'homme reports just does not exist.
On page 142 he states "While national water fees average about $458 per residence a year, some of Denver's expanding suburbs.... The town of Louisville charges $20,000 per house, and Broomfield charges $24,424 per house per year."
A simple email inquiry to the Broomfield water department elicited this response from the Billing & Accounts Administrator, City and County of Broomfield:
"Yes, I'm sure they are talking about the one time water impact fee. However, ours is currently $22,454.00. I don't know where the extra $1,970 comes from. Our average bill (water usage and water flat charge, no sewer) is approximately $485 per year. As for Louisville, I just looked online and their water impact fee is $24,140."
Improper use of scientific terminology
It is bad enough when news media frequently refer to carbon dioxide as "carbon," but that misuse appears to have become an accepted convention. However, Mr. Prud'homme takes the error to a new level. On page 209 he states, "Wetlands...(they also absorb carbon, a greenhouse gas...." and, on page 230, "...send millions of tons of carbon gas into the air...."
Carbon can appear in several familiar forms such as graphite, soot, charcoal, or diamond, but never as a gas.
Even that usage could be overlooked as an accepted slovenly shortcut by a journalist, but the author gives the same treatment to nitrogen. On page 93 he quotes "Some scientists have labeled nitrogen a `missing greenhouse gas' because it is not one of the four gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and sulfur hexafluoride)... named in the Kyoto protocol...."
Apparently the "scientists" he quotes cannot distinguish between nitrogen compounds and nitrogen gas. Further, the author did not read his own writing -- he lists nitrous oxide (a nitrogen compound) as being named in the Kyoto protocol he just quoted.
Further, if nitrogen is a greenhouse gas, then we're certainly doomed because nitrogen makes up over 78% of our atmosphere.
On page 67 while warning about the appearance of modern chemicals in our drinking water, triclocarban is described as "... an antibiotic...." less than one minute of research finds that triclocarban is not an antibiotic, it is an antimicrobial. Another minute reveals the difference between them. It's important.
Misleading or alarmist statements
Prud'homme's promiscuous use of the word "toxic" leads him to some absurd positions. On page 28 he states, "... saturated with other toxic compounds, such as xylene, toluene, and methane." Wrong. A person may be killed by methane through suffocation or explosion, but not by poisoning. Methane is not "toxic," it is biologically inert.
On page 16 he refers to "...toxic metals, such as copper and zinc..." and on page 102 "numerous poisons -- including arsenic, cobalt, iron, and thallium at dangerous levels,..."
Both copper and zinc are necessary dietary trace minerals: we need them to be healthy. Iron also is a necessary mineral in our diet. I'm sure even Mr. Prud'homme's editors (if there were any) have heard of "iron deficiency." If iron were toxic then all cast iron cookware should immediately be discarded.
Just plain nonsense
On page 51 we are told that "Sewage treatment requires enormous amounts of energy, which is costly and adds to climate change...." Is the author saying that sewage should not be treated, but, instead, dumped raw into our rivers as we used to do? We should do this to avoid climate change?
Another alarmist use of "toxins" is seen on page 77, "Endocrine disrupters are found in many everyday items, including... and plastics (especially plastic containers numbered 3, 6, and 7, which are associated with potentially harmful toxins)." Are the endocrine disruptors "associated with potentially harmful toxins" or is it the "plastic containers numbered 3, 6, and 7?" That sentence just does not make sense.
Then on page 339, writing about the ultra-pure water needed in electronic chip factories, "...which acts as a sponge for microcontaminants, such as colloidal solids, particles, total organic carbon, bacteria, pyrogens (fragments of bacteria), metal ions, and the like."
This list makes no sense. "particles"? Of what? "total organic carbon" is not a contaminant, but, rather, a measurement of contamination. That usage is nonsense in the quoted context. "Pyrogens" are not "fragments of bacteria" they are fever-causing agents.
The above are just a few of the examples of error, ignorance, alarmist statements, and nonsense found by a general reader in this book.