Pulitzer Prize Winner Dan Fagin And The Story Of 'Toms River'

Mar 27, 2015

This interview with Dan Fagin was originally broadcast in September of 2014.

When the chemical company Ciba purchased a huge swath of forested land in Toms River, New Jersey, back in 1949 and laid plans to build a major factory on the site, the local citizenry mostly thought it was a good thing.

During the ensuing years, that positive opinion pretty much remained in place, as the town grew, property values increased and good-paying jobs at the plant strengthened the local economy.  But as the plant continued to generate an increasing amount of hazardous waste, there were early signs something might be amiss.

Eventually, the townspeople began to connect the dots. Could there be a link between the chemical companies that used Toms River as a dumping ground, and what appeared to be an elevated number of childhood cancer cases? And if so, could it ever be proved?

In his acclaimed book, “Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation,” Dan Fagin tells the riveting and complex story of how a small but determined number of citizens, government officials, scientists and activists sought answers to these and other, equally disturbing questions about the health impacts of environmental pollution in one New Jersey community.

"Toms River" received the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction as well as a number of other awards, including the Rachael Carson Environment Book Award and the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism.

Dan Fagin is a journalist who specializes in environmental health issues, and teaches science journalism at New York University.

He has won both of the best-known science journalism prizes in the United States: the Science Journalism Award of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Science in Society Award of the National Association of Science Writers.