John Duffus and Howard Worth
Cambridge, UK: Royal Society of Chemistry 2006 | 490 pp | ?29.50 (SB) ISBN 0854046143
Reviewed by T M T Sheehan
Is there a link between an apparently high current incidence of oesophageal cancer in the city of Norwich, UK, and the revelation that in the 1960s the MOD covertly aerial dusted areas of Norfolk with particulate cadmium zinc sulfide as a surrogate chemical/ biological warfare agent? This question, the current hot topic for local news media, is one that might have been fashioned for this book, which aims to provide chemists with sufficient background in toxicology to at least address and understand, if not resolve, situations of this nature.
The topic is comprehensively presented. The ’basics’ include toxicodynamics and toxicokinetics, data interpretation, risk assessment and management plus monitoring and exposure. Genetic toxicity and carcinogenicity are discussed as is the toxicology of the major body organs and physiological systems. The environment is considered and the potential toxicity of different groups of substances outlined.
In general, the presentation is good, although the chapters on behavioural toxicology and toxicogenomics (the integration of molecular, cellular and physiological toxicity) are hard going at first pass.
Conversely, parts of the chapter on ecotoxicity are of A-level rather than undergraduate intensity. There is also some repetition of basic principles between chapters, although this is not necessarily a failing.
The glossary of toxicological terms (appendix B) is particularly useful. However, there are two omissions. One is post-mortem toxicology, where death makes a mockery of toxicokinetics. The other is the lack of discussion of the difficulties that arise in trying to communicate the principles of toxicology.
In the preface the editors state that ’the public are better informed about toxic effects’. Possibly, but, in my experience, the information is often incorrect, incomplete and poorly understood.
Overall, however, this book is an excellent introduction to toxicology, not only for chemists and trainee toxicologists, but for anyone interested in the subject.