The overriding theme of this book is that scientific research, citizen advocacy, and governmental regulation have been the critical and successful agents for one of the most remarkable and unrecognized social phenomena of the past half century—the reversal of a dangerous trend toward environmental and public-health degradation in the United States and Western Europe after World War II. An important corollary to this is the fact that all of these components require the existence of a free and democratic society with a free press, a government that is responsive through free elections to the will of the electorate, and an educated and involved populace. I will present evidence supporting these major themes throughout the book.
When human beings live in a clean environment with water, shelter, sufficient food of good quality, and without excessive contact with people outside of their immediate areas, they tend to be healthy and long-lived. For most of human history this scenario has been true for very few, if any, individuals. Most people have always lived with uncertain water and food supplies, in danger of physical violence, and/or exposed to the ravages of seasonal