Nancy Nichols grew up in Waugekan, IL in the 1960s and 1970s, when several factories, including Johns-Manville (asbestos) and Outboard Marine (engine manufacturing, which involved metalworking fluids that included PCBs) were dumping waste directly into Waukegan Harbor. Waukegan is also home to the Yeoman Creek Landfill, which abutted a local farm where her family purchased vegetables. Nancy’s sister Sue died of ovarian cancer and Nancy herself is a survivor of pancreatic cancer.
This book, a combination of environmental history, epidemiology, and memoir, tells the story of Waukegan’s industrial rise and fall and Nancy’s search for answers following her sister’s death and her own battle with cancer. It’s compulsively readable and makes a compelling case for the linkage between her cancer and Waukegan’s pollution.