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Living Downstream: An Ecologist's Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment Paperback – Mar 23 2010

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 2 edition (March 23 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306818698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306818691
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #280,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


The Sun, January 2009
“Steingraber’s ability to meld literary prose with complex scientific information has made her a best-selling author. Like her hero Rachel Carson, whose 1962 book Silent Spring led to the ban on the pesticide DDT and kick-started the grass-roots environmental movement, Steingraber somehow finds language beautiful and compelling enough to seduce readers to sit through a science lesson.”

The Ithacan, 2/12/10
“Jeff Cohen, director of the Park Center for Independent Media, said that Steingraber’s expertise in writing and biology as well as her personal experience created an unbelievable combination. ‘What she’s brilliant at—almost in a league of her own—is mixing personal passionate stories with totally comprehensive and accurate science,’ he said. ‘It’s not easy to do, it’s not easy to make complex scientific issues interesting, but no one does it better than Sandra Steingraber.’”, 3/6/10
“I thought I would talk about two of the books that most moved me to do more, to do better, to live a less toxic life. The first is Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the second is Sandra Steingraber’s incredibly powerful Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment …Why these two books? Because they point out something very, very telling about the link between the lives we live and the cancers we get.”

The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, Spring 2010
“Steingraber presents a clear, cogent and convincing case for the environmental roots of cancer.”

Gaia Fitness blog, 3/11/10
Living Downstream is a very well-written book by Sandra Steingraber about the status of the world in which we live and it’s affects on our lives. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend picking it up. It will likely give you a whole new perspective on the health of our world and us.”

Ithaca Journal, 4/2/10
“A part-memoir/part-scientific treatise about her battles with cancer, and the environmental roots of many cancers.”

Ithaca Times, 3/31/10
“Part analysis and presentation of available scientific information on the links between cancer and the environment and part memoir.”

Tuscon Citizen, 4/20/10
“In this second edition of a contemporary classic, Steingraber, a cancer survivor, biologist, and mother, builds a convincing case that many cancers can be prevented through environmental change…This spare, beautifully written book, originally published in 1997, presents a passionate, hopeful view, asserting that it’s a good thing that the environment has such influence over cancer because, she insists, we can do something about it.”, 4/29/10
“A book with a strong personal as well as societal orientation…The book’s language is more plainspoken and thus more accessible than that of many other books warning of environmental hazards.”

Energy Times, May 2010
“Beautifully written, Living Downstream blends [Steingraber’s] own tale—a cancer diagnosis at age 20—with an environmental detective story…If you’ve ever wondered about the link between pollution and cancer, read Living Downstream.”

Ms., Spring 2010
“In the film, as well as in her memoir of the same title, Steingraber moves to break the silence about chemical carcinogens by doing what Rachel Carson couldn’t: use her own diagnosis to prove a scientific point.”

Toronto Star, 5/19/10
“Ecologist Sandra Steingraber is the Rachel Carson of the new millennium”: “A personal and scientific inquiry… They call her the poet laureate of the environmental health movement.”

From the Inside Flap

With this eloquent and impassioned book, biologist and poet Sandra Steingraber shoulders the legacy of Rachel Carson, producing a work about people and land, cancer and the environment, that is as accessible and invaluable as "Silent Spring--and potentially as historic.
In her early twenties, Steingraber was afflicted with cancer, a disease that has afflicted other members of her adoptive family. Writing from the twin perspectives of a survivor and a concerned scientist, she traces the high incidence of cancer and the terrifying concentrations of environmental toxins in her native rural Illinois. She goes on to show similar correlation in other communities, such as Boston and Long Island, and throughout the United States, where cancer rates have risen alarmingly since mid-century. At once a deeply moving personal document and a groundbreaking work of scientific detection, Living Downstream will be a touchstone for generations, reminding us of the intimate connection between the health of our bodies and the integrity of our air, land, and water.
"By skillfully weaving a strong personal drama with thorough scientific research, Steingraber tells a compelling story....Well worth reading."--Washington Post

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Can't say enough positives about this book. Very eye opening! Everyone should read it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa6b95558) out of 5 stars 31 reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6065ed0) out of 5 stars Readable, engaging, and important book July 6 2010
By User - Published on
Format: Paperback
I've worked for a number of years as an environmental lawyer and had often heard of this book from colleagues. I finally decided to read it recently and was glad I did. The author conveys an incredible amount of information about environmental connections to cancer -- some of it quite shocking -- while at the same time telling her own story dealing with cancer and tracing and understanding its potential origins. The book is always readable in spite of the great amounts of data and analysis presented. In fact, Steingraber's writing is excellent, at times even poetic, never dry, boring or overly technical. While this is a personal narrative it is also much more. She presents a whole new vision for the way we -- as a society -- should approach manufacturing, one in which we simply deem putting carcinogens into the environment and the stream of commerce "too expensive". I found her arguments and her logic not only compelling but inspiring. I highly recommend this book, especially to anyone who is him or herself dealing with cancer.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5eafab0) out of 5 stars Why so many people have cancer March 22 2011
By Christina Ritter - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A great book that helps us understand the ties between cancer and factors such as exposures to harmful synthetic and hazordous chemicals in our environment. Living Downstream helps us understand the difficulty in "proving" scientifically which chemicals are causing cancer due to our exposures to so many chemicals and other factors (age, where we live etc.)
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5eafc90) out of 5 stars Engaging and amazingly informative July 27 2011
By A.nonymous - Published on
Verified Purchase
This book is a fascinating blend of a personal story (nonfiction) tied in with scientific data on cancer and the environment-told in a way that makes it hard to put down. The organization of the book is spectacular, it is simply amazing how well she winds her tale to be ever interesting, ever informative, and the revelations inside are simply mind-boggling. A must read (as is HAVING FAITH, her second book, which is just as fabulous). I just finished this last week, passed it on to a close friend, and am ordering a second copy because I don't want to be without one. This is something everyone should have at their fingertips-knowledge is power, and I have never experienced this much wisdom and factual evidence neatly wrapped and presented in such a way that it is hard to put down, and reads more like fiction than non. I wish it was, due to the grim nature of many of the truths it presents, but the author manages to write it without a depressing tone, but rather one of determination to look toward a better future. 5 Stars, I wish I could give it more.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa630d444) out of 5 stars Bears powerful witness to the importance of combatting profit-mongering environmental destruction May 18 2013
By Trudie Barreras - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is only rarely that I have purchased a book based completely on hearing of seeing an interview of the author. That is, however, the pathway that led me to the second edition of Sandra Steingraber's incredibly powerful narrative "Living Downstream". The interview, conducted by TV Host Bill Moyers, was aired this year just before Earth Day 2013, and in it Steingraber discussed her reasons for joining in the protest against "fracking" which led to being jailed.

Since this is a second edition of a book published originally over a decade ago, there are of course numerous updates. All of them, however, simply emphasize that the facts and experiences the author shares are becoming increasingly critical. Steingraber, born and brought up on an Illinois farm, was diagnosed at the age of 20 with bladder cancer. She survived the initial bout, and became a PhD biologist. She has since dedicated her life to the environmental, genetic and biochemical study of cancer, and the resulting environmental activism that is focused in her books and civil actions such as the protest discussed in the Moyers interview. This particular narrative acknowledges the extreme impact that Rachel Carson's famous book "Silent Spring" had on Sandra's own developing activism and deep concern about the across-the-board impact of runaway pollution of all sorts on the health of our planet and the beings inhabiting it.

Again, though, I find myself grateful for my own organic chemistry background, because a great deal of Steingraber's discussion goes into the somewhat technical details of the main carcinogenic pollutants that result from insecticide and herbicide use, chemical, paper and plastics manufacturing, fossil fuel extraction and burning, hazardous waste storage and trash incineration, and so on. She really leaves no stone unturned in developing the case that our total scientific approach has been completely backwards, based on completely useless attempts to identify individual carcinogenic effects of a few specific toxicants when in fact there are thousands of materials which not only may be harmful in and of themselves, but whose potential hazards multiply exponentially when they are in concert with one another.

The Afterword of Steingraber's extraordinarily important book, added of course to the Second Edition, focuses on the "Precautionary Principle" articulated by "an international group of scientists, lawyers, farmers, governmental officials, physicians, urban planners, environmental thinkers, and others" who gathered in 1998 at Frank Lloyd Wright's Wingspread house in Racine, Wisconsin. She cites in its entirety the Statement issued by this group, the last two paragraphs of which deserve to be printed in bold face across every argument about the pros and cons of environmental issues:

"Therefore, it is necessary to implement the Precautionary Principle. When an activity raises threat of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context, the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

"The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action."

Steingraber's extraordinary writing, as well as the activism with which she supports her thesis, bears powerful witness to the importance of the current issue of combatting with all our strength the insane rush of our profit-mongering economy to destroy our earth and all the life that lives upon it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5eafa38) out of 5 stars Real life drama of toxic tresspass July 27 2013
By J.J.Brown - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Ecologist Sandra Steingraber's Living Downstream is a real life drama of toxic tresspass. She investigates links between human cancer and industrial toxins in the environment. The story reports her discoveries in a highly personal context as she is herself a cancer survivor. Both my own mother and father died of cancer, and we shared more than our genes - we lived in the same environment as well. The book helped me understand what the risks of cancer were where I grew up, and motivated me to find out more about how I can keep my environment free of cancer-causing toxins now. This book is a beautifully written journey.