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The Alchemy of Disease
How Chemicals and Toxins Cause Cancer and Other Illnesses
Since the dawn of the industrial age, we have unleashed a bewildering number of potentially harmful chemicals. But out of this vast array, how do we identify the actual threats? What does it take to prove that a certain chemical causes cancer? How do we translate academic knowledge of the toxic effects of particular substances into understanding real-world health consequences? The science that answers these questions is toxicology.
In The Alchemy of Disease, John Whysner offers an accessible and compelling history of toxicology and its key findings. He details the experiments and discoveries that revealed the causal connections between chemical exposures and diseases. Balancing clear accounts of groundbreaking science with human drama and public-policy relevance, Whysner describes key moments in the development of toxicology and their thorny social and political implications. The book features discussions of toxicological problems past and present, including DDT, cigarettes and other carcinogens, lead poisoning, fossil fuels, chemical warfare, pharmaceuticals-including opioids-and the efficacy of animal testing. Offering valuable insight into the science and politics of crucial public-health concerns, The Alchemy of Disease shows that toxicology's task-pinpointing the chemical cause of an illness-is as compelling as any detective story.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
We all have only so much time on this Earth and so much to learn. This fine book presents an efficient and highly enjoyable way to learn the principles and history of the monumental subject of toxicology. -- Judge Lawrence P. Riff * Los Angeles Daily Journal * Whysner ... delivers an illuminating overview of the history of toxicology. Serious students of medical history will appreciate this detailed, historical account of toxicology's contributions to better health. * Publisher's Weekly * Whysner's book is a valuable addition to the history of toxicology and allied fields, as it benefits from the institutional knowledge of a professional working in the field of toxicology for five decades. The author brings to light technical aspects of the science that some may not be aware of, especially concepts of risk assessment, dose response, and links between cancer rates and the reality of the state of the science. -- Dale A. Stirling, Consultant in Environmental & Public Health History and author of <i>The Nanotechnology Revolution: A Global Bibliographic Perspective</i> and <i>A Bibliographic Guide to North American Industry: History, Health & Hazardous Waste</i> Whysner provides an honest evaluation of the science of toxicology, engaging readers with fascinating, well-paced narratives of subjects such as chronic arsenic poisoning. -- Katherine Watson, Oxford Brookes University I often tell students in the biological sciences that the best way to learn about a topic is not just to learn what knowledge has been discovered, but rather how the discoveries were made. Whysner's scholarly yet reader-friendly book reads like a series of fascinating stories derived from his lifetime of experience in the world of toxicology and public health, and what a storyteller he is! The book shows him to be a remarkable science historian as each link between chemical exposures and human diseases is placed in a captivating historical context. The extent to which Whysner has been intimately involved in major discoveries is absolutely mind-boggling. -- Joseph H. Graziano, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University The field of toxicology has become increasingly sophisticated as our knowledge of biology continues to evolve. As a scientist, it is enjoyable to read how John Whysner presents the information, and I have no doubt that the general public and students will find it equally enjoyable and informative. -- Samuel M. Cohen, Havlik-Wall Professor of Oncology, University of Nebraska Medical Center