In Living with Lead, Bradley Snow takes us through a harrowing history of humanity's relationship with one of the most poisonous metals ever to see wide use in the modern age. Tracing the dramatic story of one small Northern Rocky Mountain smelter town, Snow reveals how the things we often dismissively term 'raw materials' sometimes control us more than we control them.
The Coeur d’Alenes, a twenty-five by ten mile portion of the Idaho Panhandle, is home to one of the most productive mining districts in world history. Historically the globe’s richest silver district and also one of the nation’s biggest lead and zinc producers, the Coeur d’Alenes’ legacy also includes environmental pollution on an epic scale. For decades local waters were fouled with tailings from the mining district’s more than one hundred mines and mills and the air surrounding Kellogg, Idaho was laced with lead and other toxic heavy metals issuing from the Bunker Hill Company’s smelter. The same industrial processes that damaged the environment and harmed human health, however, also provided economic sustenance to thousands of local residents and a string of proud, working-class communities. Living with Lead endeavors to untangle the costs and benefits of a century of mining, milling, and smelting in a small western city and the region that surrounds it.
The history of Kellogg, Bunker Hill, and Idaho's Coeur d'Alenes is a powerful and illustrative example of a broader story: the transformation of one town from classic industrial modernity—which paired technological and economic progress with vast and inherent risk—to advanced modernity in which human communities shifted their understanding of risk and benefit to critique industrial production. Bradley Snow presents a case study of the trifecta of American modernity—which allows us to understand modernity at a deep and meaningful level.
An excellent resource for scholars exploring the history and impacts of natural resource extraction.
Living with Lead provides a detailed assessment of the environmental legacy of the storied Bunker Hill mine and smelter in Kellogg, Idaho. The calculated poisoning of an entire watershed should serve as a cautionary tale in today's era of environmental deregulation. Living with Lead makes an important contribution to the history of the Pacific Northwest, providing a detailed picture of the environmental cost of metal mining.