In the 1978 Love Canal toxic waste crisis, concerned citizens "did a far better job of evaluating the health of the community than did the professionals of the New York Health Department," asserts Marvin Legator. In Chemical Alert! A Community Action Handbook, he and coeditor Sabrina Strawn offer a step-by-step guide that can be used by any lay person or citizens' group to determine whether a health risk exists in their area.
Writing for the general reader with no scientific expertise, environmental, medical, and legal professionals instruct communities on the organizational and investigative techniques that will produce a valid, scientific case study. With these tools, citizens living near petrochemical plants or waste disposal areas—or who may have simply noticed a high incidence of certain health problems in their community—can determine for themselves whether a problem really exists and seek remediation. Given the reality that government agencies often lack the resources—or the will—to detect health hazards before they affect a community, an informed citizenry should be its own best environmental watchdog.