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Saturday, September 23, 2023

It Took My Breath Away: A book that makes one think of the vulnerability of our environment.

By Ardain IsmaCSMS Magazine staff writerReading is a great tool to promote awareness; and when the reading is focusing on raising awareness about the environmental danger that we face everyday, it makes the reading an even more worthwhile experience. Before I read It Took My Breath Away, I had a vague understanding about toxic materials and the potential damage they could inflict upon someone’s life. I knew about asbestos as a deadly toxin and about government negligence in protecting people against it. What I did not know was the breath and the depth of the danger, especially when environmental safety collides with corporate greed.               It Took My Breath Away is a gut-wrenching book written by Andrew Robbins (left in the picture), a passionate author who has been dedicating all of his writings to a noble cause: environmental safety. The book is a nonfiction manuscript eloquently written and well documented. It takes its readers to a rocky adventure that centers around a group of 3,000 workers exposed to toxic materials while working at the Bean Center, one of the largest government buildings, second only to the Pentagon.            The author takes the readers to the very source of the danger. In 1953, the Bean Center was designated as the United States Army Finance Center; it remained as such up until the dissolution of the Soviet Union when congress requested a defense budget reduction as a result of the end of the Cold War. The Bean Center was among the facilities that were ordered to close. But because the Center employed many families, efforts were made by city officials to save it. A committee was formed to fight off its closure ordered by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.            The Center was divided into several buildings, and according to the author, Building One was the potential hotspot, and its asbestos contamination was not made public until 1989 in an article published in the Harrison Post. This book teaches important lessons to homeowners and others about the need to be educated about construction materials, especially during renovation, restoration and expansion in the house. Well researched, the book can easily be used as a monumental reference to anyone who would be interested in learning about the various type of asbestos—some less dangerous than others.            According to the author, the Bean Center was filled with asbestos. Eighty-seven percent of the Center’s ceiling “contained chrysotile asbestos. It was the other13% for which the building surely should have been evacuated,” for it “contained asbestos belonging to the amphibole mineral group” in which several restricted microscopic fibrous materials were found. One of these minerals is amosite asbestos “installed in the third floor ceiling above several hundred unprotected workers.”               Well aware of the difficulty of understanding the meaning of chemical and medical terminologies a reader might face while reading this interesting book, the author includes a glossary with all the medical and chemical words used in the book along with a detailed meaning of each word.            Andrew Robbins, who was born and raised in Northern Michigan and who holds a science degree from Lake Superior State University, is well credited to write this rich, heavily documented book for he has worked for the Department of Defense for twenty-seven years. The book contains 13 chapters; but, to me, chapter 8 is the most intriguing one, a MUST-read one. It focuses on how one can protect his/her family from toxic fiber exposure. A literature review is served as an introduction to guide the readers toward a better understanding of the urgency to be protected from this lethal fiber exposure. I recommend this book to all readers because after going through the pages, it will without question take your breath away.

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