Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Blue Death: Disease, Disaster, and the Water We Drink, by Dr. Robert Morris

Interesting book that traced the history on known water-borne disease from John Snow hunting cholera in 19th century England to New Orleans in the post-Katrina era.

The earlier chapters were a bit text-booky, but once we made it to mid-century America, the writing really picked up, and the issues became much clearer. Outbreaks of cryptosporidium in Milwaukie in 1993 and a nightmarish E. Coli epidemic in Ontario in 2000 were written about vividly and without condescending to the reader.

Some really amazing tidbits from this book- in older US cities, workers replacing pipes still regularly find lengths of wooden pipe- over 150 years old. In younger cities, the first cast iron pipes were laid in the early years of the 20th century. These pipes had a design lifespan of 125 years. In 1925, new, thinner pipes began to be used. These had a design lifespan of about 100 years. In 1950, even thinner pipes with a design lifespan of 75 years went in. As the author puts it, "As if part of some grand, unintelligent design, this pattern of manufacturing has synchronized the decay of all three different types of pipe such that they will all reach the end of their useful life at roughly the same time." Yikes! And, sir, well said.

A good meaty book.

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

Quality: 8 Popularity: 7 Overall: 15

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