cummings school

The Chemical Detective

Sitting on a bookshelf in David Malarkey’s third-floor office is a collection of 1950s-era brochures touting the benefits of wondrous new synthetic chemicals. Malarkey, who works for a federal program charged with determining the toxicity of various substances, picks up one of the booklets and begins reading aloud about a pesticide called chlordane, which was used until the 1980s to kill garden insects. “Effective for long periods of time, safe when applied as directed,” he reads. “Outdoor living will be more comfortable when used to kill these pesky chiggers, mosquitos and flies.”