Calculated Risks: Understanding the Toxicity of Chemicals in our Environment (ii)

I finished the book – I didn’t expect to do that quite so soon, which is why I ended up posting two posts about the book during the same day. As Miao pointed out in her comment a newer version of the book exists, so if my posts have made you curious you should probably give that one a shot instead; this is a good book, but sometimes you can tell it wasn’t exactly written yesterday.

This book may tell you a lot of stuff you already know, especially if you have a little knowledge about biological systems, the human body, or perhaps basic statistics. I considered big parts of some chapters to be review stuff I already knew; I’d have preferred a slightly more detailed and in-depth treatment of the material. I didn’t need to be reminded how the kidneys work or that there’s such a thing as a blood-brain barrier, the stats stuff was of course old hat to me, I’m familiar with the linear no-threshold model, and there’s a lot of stuff about carcinogens in Mukherjee not covered in this book…

So it may tell you a lot of stuff you already know. But it will also tell you a lot of new stuff. I learned quite a bit and I liked reading the book, even the parts I probably didn’t really ‘need’ to read. I gave it 3 stars on account of the ‘written two decades ago’-thing and the ‘I don’t think I’m part of the core target group’-thing – but if current me had read it in the year 2000 I’d probably have given it four stars.

I don’t really know if the newer edition of the book is better than the one I read, and it’s dangerous to make assumptions about these things, but if he hasn’t updated it at all it’s still a good book, and if he has updated the material the new version is in all likelihood even better than the one I read. If you’re interested in this stuff, I don’t think this is a bad place to start.

I found out while writing the first post about the book that quoting from the book is quite bothersome. I’m lazy, so I decided to limit coverage here to some links which I’ve posted below – the stuff I link to is either covered or related to stuff that is covered in the book. It was a lot easier for me to post these links than to quote from the book in part because I visited many of these articles along the way while reading the book:

No-observed-adverse-effect level.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon.
Percivall Pott.
Dose–response relationship.
Acceptable daily intake.
Linear Low dose Extrapolation for Cancer Risk Assessments: Sources of Uncertainty and How They Affect the Precision of Risk Estimates (short paper)
Delaney clause.

Do note that these links taken together can be somewhat misleading – as you could hopefully tell from the quotes in the first post, the book is quite systematic and the main focus is on basic/key concepts. To the extent that specific poisons like paraquat and DDT are mentioned in the book they’re used to ‘zoom in’ on a certain aspect in order to illustrate a specific feature, or perhaps in order to point out an important distinction – stuff like that.


July 30, 2013 - Posted by | Biology, Books, Cancer/oncology, Chemistry, Medicine

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