"Cotton Dust Papers" Takes Off March 11

02/27/2002
By For more information, contact media@uml.edu or 978-934-3224

LOWELL - A fascinating historical account of the discovery of brown lung disease in America - authored by University of Massachusetts at Lowell professors and staff - will be unveiled at an upcoming book launch.

            A book-signing for "The Cotton Dust Papers" is set for Monday, March 11 at 3:30 p.m. at the Mogan Cultural Center, 40 French St.  The event, which is co-sponsored by UMass Lowell and the National Park Service, is open to the public.

            The book has been described by Publishers Weekly as a "conscientious account" of the 50-year struggle for recognition of byssinosis, a debilitating lung disease that affects textile workers.  It is written by Prof. Charles Levenstein and Gregory F. DeLaurier with Mary Lee Dunn, all of UMass Lowell's Work Environment Department.  UMass Lowell Professors William Mass and Susan Woskie also contributed to two chapters in the book.

            Brown lung disease, which is caused by inhalation of cotton dust, is estimated to have affected 35,000 mill workers prior to the 1970s.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) later that decade added that as many as 100,000 workers were still at risk from exposure.

            Through a series of stories, based for the most part on primary sources, the "Cotton Dust Papers" describes how U.S. manufacturers kept the disease secret until the 1960s, even though it was well known in Europe for three decades.  It also demonstrates how a progressive coalition of labor and other forces can cause an industry to break ranks and finally acknowledge the existence of an occupational disease.

            "Taken as a whole, these stories attempt to disentangle the threads comprising the complex social fabric of occupational disease," the book notes.

The authors will be available to discuss their research at the book launch, which is sponsored by the Mogan Cultural Center Community Committee and the UMass Lowell Work Environment Department.

The hardcover edition of "Cotton Dust Papers" is available in the UMass Lowell North Campus bookstore and online through Baywood Publishing Co. at www.baywood.com.