The Blue Death: Disease, Disaster, and the Water We Drink

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9780060730895: The Blue Death: Disease, Disaster, and the Water We Drink

With the keen eyes of a scientist and the sensibilities of a seasoned writer, Dr. Robert Morris chronicles the fascinating and at times frightening story of our drinking water. His gripping narrative vividly recounts the epidemics that have shaken cities and nations, the scientists who reached into the invisible and emerged with controversial truths that would save millions of lives, and the economic and political forces that opposed these researchers in a ferocious war of ideas.

In the gritty world of nineteenth-century England, amid the ravages of cholera, Morris introduces John Snow, the physician who proved that the deadly disease could be hidden in a drop of water. Decades later in the deserts of Africa, the story follows Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch as they raced to find the cause of cholera and a means to prevent its spread. In the twentieth century, burgeoning cities would subdue cholera and typhoid by bending rivers to their will, building massive filtration plants, and bubbling poisonous gas through their drinking water. However, with the arrival of the new millennium, the demon of waterborne disease is threatening to reemerge, and a growing body of research has linked the chlorine relied on for water treatment with cancer and stillbirths.

In The Blue Death, Morris dispels notions of fail-safe water systems. Along the way he reveals some shocking truths: the millions of miles of leaking water mains, constantly evolving microorganisms, and the looming threat of bioterrorism, which may lead to catastrophe. Across time and around the world, this riveting account offers alarming information about the natural and man-made hazards present in the very water we drink.

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About the Author:

Dr. Robert D. Morris is an internationally recognized expert in the field of drinking water and health. His work has been featured throughout the media, including Dateline NBC, the New York Times, the BBC, and The Times of London. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

From Publishers Weekly:

In this engrossing and disquieting book, the author, who specializes in drinking water epidemiology, raises the alarm about hidden perils in our water. He traces the history of the search for water-borne pathogens from the mid-19th century, when doctors discovered the bacterium that causes cholera (the blue death), to the 20th century, when it was found that chlorination and filtration would block many of the organisms responsible for diseases such as typhoid fever, dysentery and cholera. But today, our water supply is far from safe. Some pathogens elude conventional filters; others are resistant to chlorine; and chlorinated drinking water may increase the risk of certain cancers. Climate change, emerging diseases, toxic chemicals, decaying pipes and terrorism also threaten our water. To dramatize his thesis, Morris describes devastating outbreaks of gastrointestinal disease, such as the one caused by a parasite in Milwaukee's drinking water that sickened 400,000 people in 1993. During the 19th century, doctors had to overcome opposition from those who refused to believe that diseases could be waterborne. Now, epidemiologists and researchers who advocate for tighter controls on drinking water must battle drinking water industry lobbyists who resist regulatory efforts. Morris argues persuasively that unless we do more to protect the water we drink, we court disaster.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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