A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind (Hardcover)
A "powerful and indispensable book" (Gerald Markowitz) on the devastating consequences of environmental racism -- and what we can do to remedy its toxic effects on marginalized communities.
- 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 below $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 his IQ.
- Nearly two 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 between 2003 and 2015 were African American.
About the Author
Harriet A. Washington has been the Shearing Fellow at the University of Nevada's Black Mountain Institute, a Research Fellow in Medical Ethics at Harvard Medical School, a senior research scholar at the National Center for Bioethics at Tuskegee University, and a visiting scholar at DePaul University College of Law. She has held fellowships at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Stanford University. She is the author of Deadly Monopolies, Infectious Madness, and Medical Apartheid, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Oakland Award, and the American Library Association Black Caucus Nonfiction Award.
"Deeply researched, well written and timelier than ever, A Terrible Thing to Waste will necessarily transform public and scientific debates over urban decay, environmental policy and reported racial differences in IQ...Eye-opening."—Amy Brady, Shelf Awareness (Starred Review)
"It's amazing how far you can get if you just study the data. And have a keen analytical mind. And are a gifted reporter. With a sense of social justice. By which I mean, if you are Harriet Washington. She methodically indicts environmental racism and its catastrophic effects, particularly on the cognitive abilities of America's children, a reminder that what we're told is immutable -- our social conditions, our 'intelligence' -- is nothing of the kind. The news she brings is grim, but she leaves the reader feeling not paralyzed by despair but determined to act."—Randy Cohen, host of Person Place Thing and original author of New York Times Magazine's The Ethicist column
"A Terrible Thing to Waste is a powerful and indispensable book for anyone who cares about a just and healthy future for all Americans. Harriet Washington asks the critical questions that get at the heart of racism and inequality in health, income, social welfare and power in 21st century America."—Gerald Markowitz, author of Lead Wars and Distinguished Professor, John Jay College, CUNY
"In her groundbreaking new book, A Terrible Thing to Waste, award-winning science writer and bioethicist Harriet Washington explores how environmental racism damages young minds, particularly the minds of impoverished African American children who are exposed inordinately to toxins and pathogens in marginalized communities. She writes lucidly of how pollutants such as heavy metals and neurotoxins injure developing brains and recounts vividly case after case of the devastating cost to human brains and bodies. As she demolishes racist notions of inherited intelligence, she describes the medical consequences of horrific environmental catastrophes that have largely been forgotten or overlooked. Revelatory and compelling, Harriet Washington's A Terrible Thing to Waste is the Silent Spring for the 21st century."—Robin Lindley, JD, Features Editor, History News Network
"An unflinching look at environmental racism in black and brown communities."
—Angela Helm, The Root