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The dictionary of substances and their effects

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    The dictionary of substances and their effects Edited by:royal society of chemistry. (7 Volumes; £1295.00). 1999. London: Royal Society of Chemistry. ISBN: 0 85404 803 0.

    The publishers of this 7 volume book have kindly provided me with volume 1. I have learned something of substances beginning A-B! For each compound information is provided on physical properties, occupational exposure standards, ecotoxicity, environmental fate, mammalian and avian toxicology, genotoxicity, and legislation. A section entitled “other comments” is appended, as is a useful list of references. Some entries are short—and not all these topics are covered for each. Take for example, picked at random, allyl chloroformate. This compound is not very toxic (LCLO(mouse)=2000 mg/m3), is corrosive, is classified as a toxic substance for transport purposes, is a respiratory irritant but I have no idea whether anybody has looked to see whether it is a carcinogen. We are also not told the uses of this chemical. Perhaps it is rare: the 12th edition of the Merck index does not list it at all! I then looked for amyl nitrite: not listed. I wondered whether drugs were included—yes, amylobarbitone is included. Benzo(a)pyrene is much better treated: pages of useful data are provided.

    So: this is the first volume of a reference text that is designed more for libraries than for individual purchase. At £1295.00 a set it is not cheap but free access to a web database version is provided with each paper copy. Useful? Yes, although as usual with encyclopaedias the thing you wanted to know may not be there!

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