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The particulate air pollution controversy: a case study and lessons learned
  1. R L Maynard

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    Robert F. Phalen (£43.00), 2002. Dordrecht: KB. ISBN 1402072252

    Confused about particles? Read this book!

    The past 15 years have seen an explosion in interest in and concerns about the effects of ambient particles on health. Huge sums have been spent on research and journals are dominated by papers ranging from cutting edge epidemiology to molecular biology. Something for everybody—certainly—and no solution yet in sight.

    Robert Phalen has tried to bring order to the field by producing a short book setting out what is known, what is unknown, and what are the lessons that should have been learnt. The factual content will be familiar to those in the field though many who comment on the field would do well to read this book closely. More important than the review of what we know are the author’s critiques of ill-founded inferences allegedly based on the evidence. The reader is stimulated by this and should recall: evidence is not proof, and hypotheses are not facts. Because the topic is important and because reducing levels of pollutants is becoming expensive and may involve actions that may affect health negatively, we need to be exacting in our requirements for proof of effects and proof of benefits. But how does all this fit in with the Precautionary Principle? This is not discussed and is a lapse on the part of the author. It may be that the US-centric approach that the author has adopted is responsible. European (including UK!) thinking about the Precautionary Principle is developing rapidly though this cannot be discussed here.

    The author asks important questions about low dose affects, hormesis, and the overall costs and benefits of lowering levels of particles. Many will find areas for disagreement: all should be stimulated!

    At £43.00 for a small book, this is not a cheap read but it is important.

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