The Way of All Flesh traces the story of Henriettta Lacks as she dies of cancer in 1951. Before she died cells were removed from her body and cultivated in a laboratory by scientists in the hope that they could find a cure for cancer. The cells known as the HeLa line have been growing ever since, and the scientists found that they were growing in ways they could not control. The cells transformed modern medicine, the Polio vaccine, but they also became caught up in the politics of our age, shaping the policies of countries and of presidents, and even becoming involved in the cold war, as scientists were convinced that in her cells lay the secret in how to conquer death.
There is an staunch connection between medical science, the pharmaceutical industry and the structures of modern society. Drug manufacturers today fund aggressive marketing campaigns designed to create public awareness of “previously unknown diseases,” or conditions known by less dramatic names in order to sell pharmaceutical drugs and other psychotropic interventions. Shyness is thus marketed as “Social Anxiety Disorder,” worry becomes “Generalised Anxiety,” and premenstrual tension as “Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder” which must be treated by drugs made popular through advertising, such as Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac. These drugs have become household names, not to mention a 20 billion dollar a year racket. How? Why?
Aluminium is everywhere—beer cans, tinned food, cooking pans, computers, pens, cosmetics; and many medications, including most vaccinations. Though what do we know about this material? The Age of Aluminium profiles people whose health has been seriously impacted by unwitting exposure to aluminium; along with research exploring how aluminium as a known neurotoxin relates to the growing epidemic of chronic illnesses and disabilities such as breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, allergies, and autism. Aluminium mining and manufacturing have also created cataclysmic environmental problems in several parts of the world, as we see the devastating effects of aluminium mining in South America, and environmental disasters in Hungary and the UK. What are we doing with this material? And what can we do now to avoid the continued impacts on our lives and the natural world?