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Edited by Chris Winder and Neil Stacey. Basingstoke: CRC Press. Taylor & Francis Ltd, 2004, £29.99, pp xx + 602. ISBN 0-7484-0918-1
The editors’ brave goal was to provide a book directed at occupational health and safety practitioners at different levels so that they could appreciate and deal with chemical related issues regardless of their basic training and experience. The intention was to explain the basic features of toxicology and to provide a broad picture of the effects of chemicals on target tissues, always with an emphasis on examples related to workplace exposures. It was not to be a reference work but an aid to understanding the principles and practices of occupational toxicology.
I started to read it with excitement but ended with disappointment, mainly for two reasons. One is the very uneven standard of different chapters, some being detailed treatises and others superficial accounts of experiences or practices with little attempt to explain principles and mechanisms. There is not the continuing critical account of mechanism, processes, and effects that would give any practitioner a true foundation in each subject. The other was its narrow focus on the USA and Australia and with little recognition of Europe, where the exposure, evaluation, and solution of problems may follow different lines, not necessarily better but often less mechanistic and sometimes more pragmatic. The practice of occupational toxicology must be related to national or Community legal and industrial requirements and the lack of local information is a drawback.
There are 22 chapters in four sections covering the principles of toxicology, the basic features of occupational diseases of the principal body systems, the effects of major groups of chemicals, and the related fields of occupational hygiene, medicine, and epidemiology. The last section discusses uses of toxicological data in relation to the law, management of chemical safety, assessment of toxic chemicals, and an intriguing set of working examples. The authors come exclusively from the USA and Australia except for two well known Italian experts on neurotoxicity.
Each chapter provides most of the expected and important headings, but the examples and account and analysis of facts tend to be simplistic and often do not give an impression of the complex webs of factors likely to affect the occurrence, nature, and severity of a toxic effect. The paucity of examples and references to European practices must diminish the value of the work for students and practitioners in this part of the world.
The publishers cannot be pleased with a work that is difficult to read because of the use of multiple type faces, diagrams where letters are fused, and sketches of varied quality. The copy editing is suspect as such howlers as electrons in atomic nuclei and gas chromatography in the 1930s have got into print.
The underlying idea was good and is rapidly becoming essential in a field where much training occurs “on the job”. Let’s hope for better fulfilment in the next edition.
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