Book Review – A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. Washington

Harriet Washington knows how to frame an argument. She writes and organizes evidence in such a way that by the time you would have a question, she’s already answered it. By the time a reader may consider arguing her point, she’s already proved them wrong.

Largely known for her edifying work in Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, Harriet A. Washington returns with A Terrible Thing to Waste to shed light on the disproportionate exposure of people of color to environmentally hazardous substances and the effect it’s had on both the physical and cognitive health of entire communities and generations across the US. She has since been a key voice in discussing how both environmental and medical racism shaped the Covid-19 pandemic in the US.

Her accounts of environmental injustice will leave you furious, but Washington also gives us hope. In my interview with her at Public Health Post, I felt her compassion as strongly as her intelligence. She knows we are capable of better things as a society, and while we wait for systemic change, she informs her readers how to protect themselves while calling for further awareness and government action.

Other books by Harriet A. Washington:

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself, and the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future
Infectious Madness: The Surprising Science of How We “Catch” Mental Illness


Harriet A. Washington in other media:

Vox – The US medical system is still haunted by slavery
NPR – Author features
Public Health Post Profile

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Other books by Sandro Galea:

  • Pained: Uncomfortable Conversations about the Public’s Health Teaching Public Health by Michael Stein and Sandro Galea
  • Public Health by James M. Schultz, Lisa M. Sullivan, and Sandro Galea
  • Urban Health by Sandro Galea, Catherine K. Ettman, and David Vlahov
  • Healthier: Fifty Thoughts on the Foundations of Population Health by Sandro Galea

Galea in other media:

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