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Chemistry Book Group

Date: 4:00pm - 5:00pm PDT August 3

  • Cover page of What the Eyes Don’t See by Mona Hanna_Attasi

The chemistry department’s summer reading group will discuss What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Mona Hanna-Attisha.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha was the pediatrician in Flint, Michigan who showed that the percentage of children with elevated lead levels in their blood doubled after Flint switched its water supply from the Great Lakes to a local river and removed a key component of the water treatment process. Her data ultimately convinced the authorities that there was a public health emergency and that the water supply should be switched back to the original source.

This book is an excellent example of the intersection between chemistry and society. The summer discussions will address the chemistry of drinking water and lead as well as some of the many topics the book raises such as neighborhood decline (the downsizing of General Motors ultimately led to the bankruptcy of Flint), the Great Migration of African Americans, housing segregation, the immigrant experience (Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s parents immigrated from Iraq; she was born in the UK), and environmental justice.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s TEDMED talk is a good summary of the material.

At our first meeting on Monday, June 15th from 4 - 5 pm (PDT), we can finalize our meeting time and talk about ways to access the book for those who haven’t been able to get a copy through their library (ebook or physical copy if accessible) or a bookstore.

Contact Barb Balko ( if you’re interested in joining. This group is open to all current and future chemistry students, alumni, and friends.

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Barb Balko,


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