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In Harm's Way
Toxic Threats to Child Development
by Dr. Jill Stein and Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility
(Click for Amazon book review)
OnTheIssues.org BOOK REVIEW:
This book provides an example of Jill Stein’s professional work; it is not a political book at all. It was not written for any political campaign; instead, it was written under the auspices of the organization “Physicians for Social Responsibility” to illustrate a public health problem. OnTheIssues reviewed and excerpted it so that voters could see an example of Dr. Stein’s non-political work, and could also see the political implications of her public health work.
The book is about toxic materials and how they affect children’s physical and mental development. Chapters explore toxins such as lead, mercury, PCBs, and dioxins, as well as scientific concepts such as bioaccumulation (toxic concentration up the food chain) and developmental toxicology (how toxins affect babies and children). Each chapter includes “Spotlights” on a key public health issue.
Each chapter also includes numerous footnotes — sometimes very numerous. One diagram, about PCB blood levels, has 22 footnotes just for that diagram! That gives the book an academic feel: its purpose is to describe the problems, rather than come up with solutions to the problems. Or as academics would put it, this book is “descriptive rather than prescriptive.” Politics is prescriptive: politicians say what they would do to solve a problem.
We were challenged by figuring out Dr. Stein’s opinions because of the academic and descriptive slant. This book (like most academic works) uses the passive voice, saying things that professors would say, like “Results suggest that....” instead of things that a politician would say, like “I believe that….” Many voters say that politicians hedge their issue stances, but compared to academics, politicians are clear and concise. Politicians commit; academics hedge. We have attempted, among the hints and hedging, to identify Dr. Stein’s actual opinions — and we identify them as if they were political opinions, removing the cautious hedging for the sake of clarity and conciseness.
The concept underlying the book is that physicians have a social responsibility to deal with public health issues, because scientific understanding is often necessary for both the issues of toxicity and the issues of child development. The “public health” field hence includes many medical doctors, and is often the means by which doctors become involved in politics. Those doctors often remind us that several medical doctors signed the Declaration of Independence — only recently have lawyers become the overwhelming majority of politicians — and perhaps America would be better off with more doctors and fewer lawyers in Congress. Dr. Jill Stein engages in politics under that rubric.
Stein is a long-time member of the Green Party; she ran for Governor of Massachusetts in 2002 (against Mitt Romney), and ran for a couple other local offices, before winning the Green Party's presidential nomination in 2012 (and at the time of this writing, is the frontrunner to recapture that nomination in 2016). The Green Party is a natural fit for people concerned with public health, because they focus on environmental issues and their social and political implications.
In summary, this book is not a bestseller and is not a “page-turner.” It is conveniently organized, with numerous illustrations and graphics to explain complex topics, and is about as good a book as is possible on this topic. Readers should be prepared for a taste of academia, rather than the usual political biography.
-- Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief, OnTheIssues.org, June 2016
Full disclosure: Jill Stein and the reviewer, Jesse Gordon, are both active members of the Massachusetts progressive community, and as such have often interacted politically. Dr. Stein endorsed Mr. Gordon in his campaign for Cambridge City Council in 2005.
Toxic Threats to Child Development
by Dr. Jill Stein and Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Page last edited: Dec 20, 2018