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David J Hendrick, P Sherwood Burge, William S Beckett, Andrew Churg (pp 638; £99.99) 2002. London: WB Saunders. ISBN 0 7020 2507 0
The authors of this book aim to draw attention to “the changing nature of the contribution the occupational environment makes to lung disease, and to the particular difficulties this poses for those who find themselves responsible for patient care or the management of relevant industries”. The result is a book which is easy to read, helped greatly by use of a standard format for each chapter. The format includes management of both the individual and the workforce, and prevention. The authors have also used difficult or “grey” cases, similar to one other textbook in the field. The difference here is that the cases were circulated to all the contributors to this volume and the overall response summarised in the text. The lack of complete agreement in many instances is comforting at one level—“textbook” cases are the exceptions in practice—and this approach gives a far better feel for the real life situation.
Another attractive feature of this book is the chapters dedicated to descriptions of certain industries and the problems that arise from those workplaces, including mining, farming, the automotive industry, and health carers among the seven chapters. This does lead to repetition of some information between chapters but, as the authors rightly point out, readers will tend to dip into one particular part of the book, and repetition under these circumstances is helpful rather than an irritation. The chapters on specific disciplines used in the investigation and management of occupational lung disease (for example, imaging and occupational hygiene) are good and sufficient for most needs in this context. The chapters on legislation divided geographically into North America, Western Europe, and the Pacific, Far East, and Australasia is an excellent attempt to widen the relevance of the book.
My criticisms are few and minor. While there are good generic sections on how to take an occupational exposure history and on surveillance, it might have been a useful addition to include a chapter on epidemiological aspects unrelated to surveillance and more to the research field. This would allow greater expansion on the healthy worker effect and perhaps also the opportunity to compare the now burgeoning literature on the health effects of the broader environment and how these findings might apply to the occupational scene. Boxes have been used for specific sections within chapters. Sometimes this works, but sometimes it does not. There are one or two boxes which run to four or five pages and I feel that these would quite happily sit as sections within the chapter rather than boxes. Boxes need to be short and punchy.
This book is an excellent addition to the literature in this area, complimenting nicely the classical standard textbooks, and at a penny under £100 is good value for money. It is targeted at all physicians, hygienists, health and safety officers, and administrators, and successfully hits that target for all these groups. For exam purposes (for example, AFOM in the UK) this should be regarded as the standard text.