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Science Books

July 24, 2009

Bottlemania: Big Business, Local Springs, And The Battle Over America's Drinking Water
Elizabeth Royte (2009)
ISBN: 159691372X

Bottled water is about to become the world's most popular drink, which means it's likely that you're sipping on a bottle of H2O right now - but do you know what you're really drinking? To many people, bottled water is considered convenient and pure, but author Elizabeth Royte writes that these beliefs are little more than unquestioned assumptions. Using her investigative skills, Royte goes to the source of the bottled water that ends up on supermarket shelves. What she finds is scandalous. The images of cool, pristine natural springs so often depicted on water bottles is nothing further from the truth, and the amount of chemicals used to purify the water will leave you reeling. In fact, tap water is often of a much higher quality than bottled water. Despite this, the bottled water industry is stronger than ever. Royte investigates the culture of bottled water, and tries to discover why so many Americans eschew tap water only to spend up big on designer water. Discovering that bottle mania is little more than a marketing coup, Royte claims that we're not only being fooled by multinational corporations, but also that we're buying into an environmental nightmare.

The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste And Why It Matters
Rose George (2009)
ISBN: 0805090835

Poo. Plop-plop. Crap. Number two. Wee-wee. Piddle. John. Smallest room. Powder room. Loo. Place of easement. Euphemisms abound to describe human waste and its disposal, yet going into any detail about feces or urine instantly triggers looks of consternation, frowns of disapproval or uncontrollable fits of juvenile giggling. Why does a bodily function as natural as breathing provoke such responses? In The Big Necessity, freelance writer Rose George, New York Times, Slate and The Guardian, suggests that discussing human waste should be no big deal, and that priggish attitudes towards the subject could be costing lives unnecessarily. According to George, disease spread by human waste kills more people annually than any other single cause of death. This statistic includes America, where nearly two million people cannot access the hygienic refuge of an indoor toilet. But even having access to a toilet has its dangers, as using toilet paper is not nearly as hygienic as most people think. George's toilet escapades lead her to the underground sewers, the bowels, of Paris and New York, and an Indian slum of 60,000 inhabitants who share 10 toilets between them. Using humor and wit, George eases the reader into this taboo subject that can be the butt (phnar!) of jokes one minute and a deadly serious killer the next.

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