Pandora's Poison

Pandora's Poison

Chlorine, Health, and a New Environmental Strategy

By Joseph Thornton

The dangers of organochlorines and a proposed solution.





The dangers of organochlorines and a proposed solution.

Pandora's Poison presents a solution to one of the most insidious environmental problems of our time: the global build-up of toxic chemicals. Everywhere on the planet, hundreds of industrial chemicals called organochlorines are accumulating in the environment, the food supply, and our bodies. These substances—such infamous pollutants as dioxins, PCBs, and DDT, along with thousands of lesser-known hazards—are produced when chlorine gas is used to make plastics, paper, pesticides, and many industrial chemicals. In a thorough and accessible analysis, biologist Joe Thornton shows how global organochlorine pollution is already contributing to infertility, immune suppression, cancer, and developmental disorders in humans and wildlife.Thornton proposes a major shift in environmental science and policy. He shows that the current framework radically overestimates the ability of science and technology to address the complex global hazards of chemical mixtures. And he reveals how the "sound science" that dominates environmental regulations disguises political biases that protect polluters and gamble with public health. Articulating principles for a new environmental strategy, Thornton shows that the only practical solution is to take global action on broad classes of hazardous chemicals and the processes that produce them, starting with organochlorines. He lays out a democratically controlled program to replace the production and use of chlorine gas and its derivatives with safer, effective, and economically feasible alternatives, which are already available for the majority of chlorine uses. With an innovative interdisiciplinary approach, Pandora's Poison promises to revolutionize the debate over pollution, health, and the role of science in public policy.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262201247 611 pp. | 7 in x 9 in


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262700849 611 pp. | 7 in x 9 in


  • ...Thornton articulates a new strategy for eradicating one of the world's most pervasive and dangerous pollutants: organochlorines.

    Publishers Weekly


  • Richard Day emphasize the importance of moving economics toward the realism of dynamic behavior. He recognizes that economic systems are nonlinear, requiring more powerful methods of analysis. Day's book is a significant step along the road to full-scale nonlinear dynamics in economics.

    Jay W. Forrester

    Professor of Management, Emeritus, and Senior Lecturer, Sloan School, MIT

  • For almost a decade, Joe Thornton has offered his thoughtful analysesof the organochlorine problem to the scientific community and to theconcerned public. Pandora's Poison is hispièce de résistance. Thornton's quiet passionand no-stone-left-unturned research style combine to create a powerfulargument. I've been waiting a long time for this book.

    Sandra Steingraber

    author of Living Downstream: AnEcologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment

  • For years we have bet our health and the health of ourplanet on the demonstrably false notion that we can determine the riskof individual chemical pollutants and regulate them accordingly. It isnow evident that we have lost the bet—widespread and deadlyenvironmental contamination are the penalty. In this brilliant andlucidly written book, Joe Thornton describes an ecologically,economically, and chemically sophisticated alternative to thepollute-and-regulate system that has failed us so badly.Pandora's Poison is a breath of clean air at thestart of a new century.

    David Ehrenfeld, M.D., Ph.D.

    Professor of Biology, RutgersUniversity, and author of The Arrogance of Humanism

  • In Pandora's Poison, Joe Thornton has given usa brilliant analysis of the persistent toxic impact of the massiveproduction and environmental dissemination of synthetic chlorinatedorganic chemicals. He has masterfully woven together a lucid account ofthe molecular, biological, medical, and political aspects of amonumental industrial mistake and has designed an incisive way ofending this unnatural global disaster.

    Barry Commoner

    Director, Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, Queens College, City University of New York

  • Joe Thornton has produced a ground-breaking treatise in environmental health. Authoritatively documented and accessible to the non-specialist, Pandora's Poison is a broad interdisciplinary analysis of both the science and the public policy of chemical pollution and argues for bold, innovative approaches to pollution prevention.

    Philip Landrigan, M.D.

    Professor and Chairman, Department of Preventive and Community Medicine, Center for Children's Health and the Environment, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

  • Joe Thornton has written the best book on environmental policy I've read in the past decade. The case he makes is authoritative, clear, and compelling. It deserves center stage.

    David W. Orr

    Chair, Environmental Studies Program, Oberlin College