Toxicology and ecotoxicology in chemical safety assessment

Toxicology and ecotoxicology in chemical safety assessment 
Laura Robinson and Ian Thorn 
Oxford, UK: Blackwell Science | 2005 | 168pp | ?65.00 | ISBN 1405115599 
Reviewed by John H Duffus

The stated aim of this book is to provide health and safety managers and others responsible for the handling of chemicals with a guide to interpreting the toxicological data provided by suppliers. To facilitate this, the authors provide a background of essential knowledge of toxicology and ecotoxicology, the test methods used to obtain the data and the related legislation.  

There is already a similar document in existence - ’Safety data sheets - user guide’, published in 2000 by the Chemical Hazards Communication Society (CHCS), and it is interesting to compare it with this book. The CHCS document is designed for immediate use, covering each section of the typical European safety data sheet in sequence and is spirally bound so that it opens flat at any section needed. This book, by contrast, is more like a textbook, providing a great deal of fundamental knowledge on toxicology and ecotoxicology, relevant safety legislation, and risk assessment. It might well provide a foundation for a course in toxicology and ecotoxicology for occupational hygienists. However, someone with no background in toxicology, needing to interpret a safety data sheet for a COSHH risk assessment, should reach for the CHCS document and not this book. 

There are few errors or omissions in the text but some are significant. No reference is made to genetic differences contributing to human susceptibility to toxicity. The section on particulates gives no consideration to ultrafines which are a matter of growing concern. 

Further, in discussing occupational exposure limits, under the heading ’Take note!’, it is stated that ’a high occupational exposure limit (OEL) value does not necessarily mean that a chemical is more hazardous than another with a lower value’. This implies that high OELs are set for the more hazardous chemicals whereas the opposite is the case, high hazard equals low OEL. 

Unfortunately, this book falls between two stools, being neither a textbook nor an immediate guide to safety data sheet interpretation. In either case, the price is excessive. The CHCS document costs ?15.