by Alan Kolok
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Island Press
Released: May 5, 2016
Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Written by a longtime professor of toxicology, this accessible book explains basic principles of toxicology in plain language while illuminating the most important issues in contemporary toxicology. Kolok begins by exploring age-old precepts such as the dose-response relationship and that a chemical’s particular action depends on its inherent chemical nature. He goes on to show exactly how chemicals enter the body and elicit their toxic effect, as well as the body’s methods of defense.
With the fundamentals established, Kolok digs into advances in toxicology, tracing the field’s development from World War II to the present day. The book examines both technical discoveries and their impacts on public policy. Highlights include studies of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in toiletries and prescriptions, the emerging science on prions, and our growing understanding of epigenetics. Readers learn not only how toxic exposure affects people and wildlife, but about the long-term social and environmental consequences of our chemicals.
Modern Poisons explains the basic principles of toxicology for the average person. The tone was generally formal, and the beginning chapters were technical enough that it's helpful if you've taken at least a high school chemistry or biology class. He clearly explained any technical language, and I don't think most people would find the text confusing though you do need to pay attention. I would highly recommend this book to everyone as it's an important topic to understand.
The author began with information on how our body deals with toxins, how things are tested for toxicity, and how things have changed in testing as concerns have grown from determining lethal doses to include adverse affects at lower doses and toxins that aren't broken down. He discussed both natural toxins (like harmful metals and snake venom) and synthetic chemicals. I really liked the information on how our body absorbs chemicals through our skin, lungs, and digestive tract and how our body protects us from toxins. I feel like I can better sort out popular health claims now.
The author also talked about toxins in the air, water, land, and animals and how toxins are broken down (through biotransformation) or aren't (and so accumulate in animals higher up the food chain). He discussed drugs, pesticides, cosmetics, and food additives. He talked about historical issues (like DDT), newer concerns (like prions, persistent organic pollutants, multi-generational impacts, and antibacterial and pesticide resistance), and the social impact and regulation resulting from these concerns.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
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