Academic journal article The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health

How Everyday Products Make People Sick: Toxins at Home and in the Workplace

Academic journal article The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health

How Everyday Products Make People Sick: Toxins at Home and in the Workplace

Article excerpt

How everyday products make people sick: toxins at home and in the workplace By Paul D Blanc. Published by University of California Press. 374pp. Price £19.95. ISBN 978 0 520 24882 3

Those of us with any experience in occupational and environmental medicine will have come across examples of unusual or unexpected exposures to toxic agents. As such we might be tempted to think, I could have written this, for at first glance this book appears to be a description of how unwary individuals may encounter toxic hazards at home or at work. This is the impression given by the title, by the quotation on the cover - 'A superb tool for making our homes, finally, a safe place to raise children' - and by the examples given in the opening chapter. However, Paul Blanc has not written a textbook or given a series of case reports. Instead, he is posing the question: why, when examples of occupational and environmental ill-health can be traced back over a couple of centuries or more, with episodes occurring many times over, is it that efforts to limit or prevent harmful practices have so often proven to be ineffective or have even been thwarted?

To illustrate the validity of this question, each chapter is skilfully crafted around a particular theme. For example, one chapter, begins with trivial domestic gassing from bleach. The narrative continues with the discovery of chlorine; to hydrochloric acid and the phlogiston theory; earlier bleaching agents such as potash and urine; the development of soaps; and back to chlorine bleaching, with descriptions of the historical contexts as well as the associated hazards. …

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