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Environmental toxicants: human exposures and their health effects

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    Environmental toxicants: human exposures and their health effects Edited by:morton lippmann. (Pp 987; £96.50). 2000. Chichester: Wiley, Interscience. ISBN: 0-471-29298-2.

    This is the second edition of Lippmann's well known book on environmental toxicants. Seven new chapters are included bringing the total to 30. Forty one authors make contributions and the book runs to almost 1000 pages. Despite this it is surprisingly slim, due to the use of fine high quality paper, and the book is pleasant to hold and read.

    The editor has set out to provide in depth reviews of environmental toxicants: including air pollutants, dioxins, environmental tobacco smoke, food additives, radiation, noise, metals, and microwaves. Chapters dealing with risk and methods for reducing risks are also included. The book ends with an industrial perspective, which suggests how integration of information on the effects of chemicals into corporate policies and practices for protecting health can be achieved. The scope is thus broad although not all embracing. The first impression I got on reading the chapters dealing with topics with which I am familiar was one of awe. The detail included is extensive, facts fall like snowflakes, and hardly a line seems to lack either a reference or some data from a study or experiment. This does not make for easy or rapid reading but it does make for an outstanding source of reference. Readers should look at the editor's 70 page review of ozone that includes reference to more than 300 sources to see what a detailed review actually should be. Recent references are included throughout.

    The first detailed chapter is on ambient particulate matter (this and some of the other chapters on classic air pollutants) is by the editor. This chapter is fairly short and presents a summary of most of what one needs to know. There is a trace of a bias towards the United States literature and the discussion on the setting of standards is focused sharply on United States practice. The much discussed ultrafine hypothesis is treated lightly and the author has not dwelt on the mechanisms of free radical formation that are currently being discussed. Recent work on the effects of particles in animal models are discussed. This is followed by a longer account of asbestos and other fibres. The evidence for effects on health is reviewed in depth, sifted, and summarised judiciously. A great deal of detail is provided—enough to make some pages hard reading. The chapter ends with a useful recapitulation of the key findings. The editor has contributed further chapters—on ozone and sulphur dioxide; these follow the same pattern: exhaustive detail, careful weighing, and balanced conclusions.

    In reading other chapters from this book I wondered whether the authors could keep up to Lippmann's standard. Mauderly has dealt with diesel exhaust, and yes, he has maintained the standard: about 40 pages and on reaching the end the reader wonders whether he need read more on this vexed issue. The summary of what can be learnt from the epidemiological studies should be reprinted—widely. This chapter compares very favourably with recent monographs on diesel exhaust.

    As well as dealing with chemicals, noise and radiation are reviewed. I read the chapter on noise and found it useful and short. The emphasis is on the classic effects of noise and current concerns about effects on blood pressure, likelihood of myocardial infarction, and effects on children's learning in noisy schools receive little attention. Sleep disturbance is mentioned but much more could be said of how this might be measured and of the comparative importance of mid-sleep waking and early morning waking.

    Who, then, is this book for? Not for the beginner I think, but as a source of reference for the professional environmental toxicologist it is unequalled. Faults? A certain and understandable bias towards the United States perhaps but not much else that I can see. The book has been well proofed and is remarkably free from misprints. In conclusion then, an outstanding book that every environmental toxicologist should have. Good value at £96.50.

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