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Britain has a lengthy and mixed history in the world of toxicology; some industrial and community diseases due to toxic substances have occurred and were first recognised here from the 1st century AD onwards, and our scientists have made seminal contributions to the basic understanding of toxicology. Is this major work to be the epitaph of our achievements, as academic and industrial pressures relentlessly diminish our base of working toxicologists, or is it a further pointer to our understanding of the knowledge and practice of a subject of growing public importance? And, being the second edition of a justifiably successful monograph, how well have advances been included and presentation improved?
The new preface points out the considerable extent of the new material in the book, recognising the speed of progress in molecular toxicology coming from new knowledge in basic sciences, and the wide changes in regulatory approaches to assessing the safety of most products, food, and the environment. As a result, it has grown from two to three volumes, the extensive reference lists have been brought up to date, sometimes with the addition of focused suggestions for additional reading, and the multinational character of the list of authors has been further expanded.
The editors have served their readers well by providing a very extensive survey of the sciences and other factors that underlie toxicology as a discipline applied to the demonstration and understanding of chemical hazards and to practical control of toxic risks in the home, at work, in the clinic, and in the environment. The 116 pages of the subject index and the 38 pages of the chemical index together lead the enquirer to critical accounts of almost every topic that could be brought into toxicology, including education, studies in man, further information sources and even the coyly termed “idiopathic environmental intolerances” (multiple chemical sensitivity, and its cousins). There is particular strength in the clarity of the links made with cognate subjects, such as pharmacology, cell biology, analytical chemistry and biochemistry, immunology, and veterinary and human medicine. A major feature is the concentration on methods to recognise, study, and assess toxicity in its many guises, which leads directly to accounts of good practices in examining substances and circumstances for evidence of toxicity, and how to use that information to evaluate the risks of exposure. The book is more, much more than a list of techniques and regulations. It is also a major reference source in its own right, providing basic and practical information about the actions of many different substances, ranging from medicines to foods and air pollutants. The presentation is clear, there are many clear diagrams and tables and the authors have somehow been persuaded to write or to be edited into producing highly readable text, clear and mostly concise, even when dealing with the drier topics—such as PKPD modelling, GLP, and ICH.
The weaknesses are those that are inevitable in any multi-author work, especially the concentration on national approaches in some chapters, when international differences are better recognised in others, and the difficulty that some authors must have had of balancing personal enthusiasms against more general views that other aspects are more important.
Overall, although some can already foresee the demise of the printed book, this is a balanced and comprehensive account of what toxicology is, how to use and interpret its findings, and of its scientific and clinical base. It is equally a well presented guide to the actions of many substances selected as type examples, and to further sources of even more recent or alternative information if further data are required.
It is an effective reference source, it will be a valuable aid to teaching toxicologists, allied scientists, physicians, and those who regulate, are regulated, or who expect to be protected from toxicity. Like all monographs it belongs in libraries, but it would be no less helpful in clinics, courts, and in laboratories.