When Robert Hale travelled down to Chesapeake Bay on the coast of Virginia to take a professorship at the Institute of Marine Science in Glocester Point, he expected to be spending his days out on the water, not investigating the dusty, and as it turns out, dangerously toxic contents of household vacuum-cleaner bags. After all, Hale, a leading environmental chemist, had been hired in 1987 to study the effect pesticides and other cancer-causing chemicals were having on bass, carp, and catfish.