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Exposure assessment in occupational and environmental epidemiology
  1. R M Harrison

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    Edited by Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen (pp 283). Oxford University Press, UK, 2003. £36.50. ISBN 0-19-852861-2

    While exposure assessment for occupational epidemiology has been developed over many years, the application of exposure assessment, other than of the crudest kind, in environmental epidemiology is relatively new. In the majority of epidemiological investigations, rather basic surrogate measures of exposure are applied with very strong possibilities for misclassification of exposure, and therefore in most instances a weakening of the power of the study. There is, therefore, much to gain from application of improved exposure assessment methods. This book provides the necessary foundation. Mark Nieuwenhuijsen’s book, in the words of the preface, is aimed at a very wide audience including undergraduate and postgraduate courses in a range of disciplines and as a reference book for policy makers and regulators. The book comprises 17 chapters divided into two sections, the first on methods, the second on current topics. The methods range from questionnaires through dispersion modelling, use of geographic information systems, personal exposure monitoring, modelling of personal exposures, retrospective exposure assessment, exposure surrogates, dermal exposure assessments, physiologically based pharmacokinetic modelling, biological monitoring, and finally an interesting chapter on the consequences of exposure measurement error. In the second section on current topics there are five individual chapters dealing with allergen exposure, airborne particulate matter (environmental exposures), chlorination disinfection by-products, pesticides, and radio frequency exposures in relation to cancer. Dr Nieuwenhuijsen has assembled an impressive international list of contributors and the individual chapters, although relatively short, mostly present a relatively comprehensive overview of the relevant subject area. I looked particularly closely at sections dealing with airborne particulate matter, as this is a personal interest, and found the subject to arise in a number of chapters in the first section of the book, in addition to the current topic chapter. The latter can be complimented on being especially up-to-date, much of it being based on work published between 2000 and 2002. The one topic which, although touched on is not dealt with in an appropriate level of detail, is the technology for measuring personal exposure, particularly the area of environmental exposures. Development of new techniques is at the cutting edge of the subject and this would have been a valuable component of the book. In all other senses I found the book to be a very thorough treatment of the subject, easy to read, and by authoritative authors. It is very up-to-date and accurate; I was only able to find one obvious error. I am not aware of any obviously competitive titles and the book deserves to do well. It is a little on the expensive side for a softback, but nonetheless offers good value for money. I would however question the intended market. I would be surprised to see the book used substantially for undergraduate teaching except perhaps in highly specialised courses. Its readership will lie far more with postgraduate courses and especially with those professionally involved in epidemiology and exposure assessment. For that last group, it will prove a very valuable addition to the private bookshelf and institutional library.

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