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ECOSYSTEMS AND HUMAN HEALTH: TOXICOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS, THIRD EDITION

  1. Top of page
  2. ECOSYSTEMS AND HUMAN HEALTH: TOXICOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS, THIRD EDITION
  3. ON BEING CERTAIN, BELIEVING YOU ARE RIGHT EVEN WHEN YOU'RE NOT
  4. PHOSPHORUS, FOOD, AND OUR FUTURE
  5. QUANTITATIVE ECOTOXICOLOGY, SECOND EDITION
  6. TRACE METALS IN AQUATIC SYSTEMS

by Richard B Philip

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Ecosystems and Human Health: Toxicology and Environmental Hazards is an excellent teaching and reference book authored by Dr. Richard Philip who has more than 40 years of research, teaching, and consulting experience on environment-related subjects. Students and professionals in related sciences, such as Environmental Science, Toxicology, Biology, Pharmacology, Epidemiology, and Medicine will profit from the book. The book describes how chemical and biological hazards can impact the environment and humans who live in it. The book explores the broad range of environmental and human health aspects of hazards in air, water, and soil. It also examines various toxicants and hazards, such as halogenated hydrocarbons, metals, organic solvents, pesticides, mycotoxins, food additives and contaminants, hormone disrupters, radiation hazards, and natural environmental hazards such as venomous and toxic animals.

While most textbooks in the topic of toxicology and environmental sciences provide too much detailed and exhaustive information, Ecosystems and Human Health: Toxicology and Environmental Hazards offers a fast overview and summary of the principles of toxicity of hazards and complex relationship of hazards with human health and environmental safety. The book is divided in 15 independent chapters that allow easy navigation, and the reader can skip to any specific topics of interest. It begins with the basic principles of pharmacology and toxicology, which provide necessary knowledge for the understanding of the toxicity discussed in the following chapters. Chapter 2 discusses risk analysis by presenting risk assessment procedures and potential sources of errors. The book separates treatment of effects of toxicants on ecosystems and on human health with more emphasis on human health impacted by environmental toxicants. For example, in the Water and Soil Pollution chapter, the author discusses sources of toxicants such as agriculture runoff, rain, and municipal sewage discharge and waste disposal; major water pollutants such as detergents and pesticides; the toxic effects of pesticides on human health; toxic effects of waste disposal on human health; effects of toxicants in the Great Lakes on human health and wildlife; sources of marine pollution and their effects on marine species; and biological hazards in drinking water and their effects on human health using the Walkerton water crisis as an example. The author conveys the impact of hazards on human health by presenting numerous examples and scenarios from all over the world. The case studies based on actual occurrences not only highlight the environmental impact on human health, but also help the reader understand and apply the toxicity knowledge to the real world.

2013. 418 pp. Hardcover. ISBN 978-1-4665-6721-4. $130. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

  • Zhongyu (June) Yan

  • ORISE Postdoctoral Fellow with US EPA

ON BEING CERTAIN, BELIEVING YOU ARE RIGHT EVEN WHEN YOU'RE NOT

  1. Top of page
  2. ECOSYSTEMS AND HUMAN HEALTH: TOXICOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS, THIRD EDITION
  3. ON BEING CERTAIN, BELIEVING YOU ARE RIGHT EVEN WHEN YOU'RE NOT
  4. PHOSPHORUS, FOOD, AND OUR FUTURE
  5. QUANTITATIVE ECOTOXICOLOGY, SECOND EDITION
  6. TRACE METALS IN AQUATIC SYSTEMS

by Robert A Burton

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This book makes the simple but difficult to accept point that confidence is an emotion, not an analytical result. People routinely express absolute confidence in ideas that are demonstrably wrong. This feeling of knowing is essential to accept the results of our brain's unconscious processing of sensory input, but it should not be taken literally. There is no part of the brain that rises above the messy biological processes that occur between sensory input and conscious beliefs and that is independent of biases, influences, and errors. The “scientific method” may be conceived as a set of tools for suppressing confidence. Ideally, we follow a formal method, solicit peer review, await independent confirmation, and even then withhold absolute belief. In practice, we tend to express more confidence in our results than is justified.

The author is a neurologist who is also a novelist. He does a good job of presenting and balancing results of scientific studies, anecdotes, speculation, and synthesis. The studies seem to show that certainty can be induced by electrical stimulation as an emotion that is independent of any particular knowledge. Depending on the experimental subject, it may be experienced as an ecstatic feeling of being one with the universe, of knowing God, or simply being right with the world. We experience it in more prosaic form when we believe that we have learned something important, particularly something that others do not know, or when we recall something significant. The author admonishes us to ask ourselves how we know what we know, but then warns that the brain that is second guessing itself is still fallible. In the end, the only sure defense against making a fool of yourself is humility. Reading this book should help to put you in that emotional state rather than a state of certainty, which is the more rewarding emotion in the short term but more hazardous in the longer term.

2008. 256 pp. Softcover, ISBN 978-0-312-54152-1. $15. St. Martins Griffin, New York.

  • Glenn Suter

  • SETAC Reviews Editor

PHOSPHORUS, FOOD, AND OUR FUTURE

  1. Top of page
  2. ECOSYSTEMS AND HUMAN HEALTH: TOXICOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS, THIRD EDITION
  3. ON BEING CERTAIN, BELIEVING YOU ARE RIGHT EVEN WHEN YOU'RE NOT
  4. PHOSPHORUS, FOOD, AND OUR FUTURE
  5. QUANTITATIVE ECOTOXICOLOGY, SECOND EDITION
  6. TRACE METALS IN AQUATIC SYSTEMS

edited by Karl A Wyant, Jessica R Corman, and James J Elser

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The form of this book is literally unique. A professional writer addressing the topic of phosphorus would have provided a narrative structure, possibly historical or based on personal experience or on a central character. Good examples are Bill Carter's book on copper, Boom, Bust, Boom, or Lydia Denworth's book on lead, Toxic Truth. Typical academics would have assembled papers on the element and, if the reader is lucky, provided synthetic introductory or concluding chapters. This book is the product of a workshop organized by graduate students and edited by two graduate students and a professor. As one might expect from the relatively uninhibited minds of graduate students, the academic structure of assembled papers is somewhat subverted by features such as commissioned works of art, with commentaries, for each chapter and chapter subtitles such as P is for price, P is for productivity, and P is for preservation. I wish that Oxford University Press had invested in a more attractive format with larger figures and color reproduction. As it is, some of the art does not show well and some of the figures are difficult to read or even unreadable (e.g., Figure 5.3).

The organization of the book follows a nice arc. It begins with a chapter on sustainability as it might apply to phosphorus, works through the expected technical chapters (resource economics, the biology of P, current P use and fate, P recovery, etc.), and concludes by returning to phosphorus sustainability but with a vision of a future global phosphorus policy. The surprise in the mix is a chapter on cultural beliefs and values subtitled P is for people. A major barrier to closing the human phosphorus cycle is attitudes toward the use of human body wastes and their derivatives in agriculture, which are constrained by religious and cultural traditions. However, other cultural issues also contribute to phosphorus problems such as the aversion to genetic engineering which could create more P-efficient plants.

Phosphorus is certainly worthy of this treatment. Water is renewed by evaporation and precipitation. Nitrogen can be fixed from the air. Phosphorus must be mined and the minable resources are severely limited. What do we do when it has been extracted and then washed or flushed out to sea? This book provides a good place to start for those willing to work on the issue.

2013. 224 pp. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0-19-991683-2. $60. Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom.

  • Glenn Suter

  • SETAC Reviews Editor

QUANTITATIVE ECOTOXICOLOGY, SECOND EDITION

  1. Top of page
  2. ECOSYSTEMS AND HUMAN HEALTH: TOXICOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS, THIRD EDITION
  3. ON BEING CERTAIN, BELIEVING YOU ARE RIGHT EVEN WHEN YOU'RE NOT
  4. PHOSPHORUS, FOOD, AND OUR FUTURE
  5. QUANTITATIVE ECOTOXICOLOGY, SECOND EDITION
  6. TRACE METALS IN AQUATIC SYSTEMS

by Michael C Newman

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The second edition of Quantitative Ecotoxicology by Michael Newman is without doubt a book that all aspiring and practicing ecotoxicologists should read and re-read time and time again. With each reading, as the reader learns more, new insights will be gained from this excellent book. This is not to say that Quantitative Ecotoxicology is always an easy read, it is written assuming that the reader already has a reasonable understanding of scientific method, ecotoxicology, and statistics. Some readers with lesser knowledge will struggle but numerous references are provided and the book has been written as part of a trilogy—Fundamentals of Ecotoxicology and Ecotoxicology: A Comprehensive Treatment—which provides much of the necessary foundation material.

One of the features of the book that I particularly liked and I believe that many readers will find very useful are the many worked examples of the various methods described. There is nothing better than having worked examples—to take things from the abstract and theoretical to the practical and hands on. This, combined with SAS code for conducting many of the analyses and frequent reference to Excel functions, will be of great benefit to users. Should there be a third version of the book, a further improvement would be to refer to the R statistical software, which is one of the most significant recent developments in statistics.

The book is structured very logically. If others had written a similar book, many would have omitted the first two chapters: Ecotoxicology as a Scientific Discipline and The Measurement Process. However, the book is all the better for having included them. Chapter 1 expounds the scientific method of inference and its significance to ecotoxicology, the evolution of branches of science and where ecotoxicology lies in that development, but also the basic quantitative concepts of ecotoxicology. The second chapter provides a nice historical summary of the concepts of quantification and its central importance to science. It discusses censored data (e.g., concentrations reported as less than or greater than values) and how we can obtain meaningful information from such data. It also explains accuracy and precision and how to monitor these in experiments, variance structure and the key roles of sample size and replication, and finally the often vexing problem of outliers. The subsequent four chapters discuss in detail quantitative concepts and statistics associated with ecotoxicology at increasingly complex levels of organization. Chapter 3 deals with the uptake of chemicals into biota and the various models that can be used to describe and predict it. Chapter 4 discusses methods for calculating the toxicity to individuals: the toxicity after a set duration (the standard form of toxicity testing), the time to death, accounting for the effects of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, and the toxicity of mixtures. This chapter includes all of the most frequently used tests (e.g., Probit, Litchfield-Wilcoxon, and the Trimmed Spearman-Karber methods), but also quite a few less well-known tests (e.g., moving average and the up-and-down methods), which have considerable merit in certain circumstances. Chapter 5 still deals with toxicity to individuals, but the emphasis here is on statistical tests for significance, how they are conducted, and their appropriateness for ecotoxicology. This is a very topical issue within quantitative sciences in general and ecotoxicology in particular. The book goes to some length to explain the development of our current statistical practices and their limitations. It also discusses the alternatives. Chapters 6 and 7 present and discuss methods for quantifying toxic effects at the population (and metapopulation) level and at the community level, respectively. For ecotoxicologists without a background in ecology, much of this material will be new; however, within ecology, it is routine.

I believe that “Quantitative Ecotoxicology” is an excellent accompaniment to the two other books by Newman and co-authors. It goes far beyond just describing existing quantitative methods being used in ecotoxicology—Chapters 1, 2, 6, and 7 present a great deal of information from other branches of science that are of great use to ecotoxicology. The book is not satisfied with presenting the status quo in a recipe type manner, but discusses the limitations of the methods and gently but firmly challenges all ecotoxicologists to lift our game, become more rigorous, and contribute to the development of our branch of science.

2012. 592 pp. Hardcover. ISBN 978-1-43983-564-7. $150. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

  • Michael Warne

  • Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts and the University of Queensland, Australia

TRACE METALS IN AQUATIC SYSTEMS

  1. Top of page
  2. ECOSYSTEMS AND HUMAN HEALTH: TOXICOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS, THIRD EDITION
  3. ON BEING CERTAIN, BELIEVING YOU ARE RIGHT EVEN WHEN YOU'RE NOT
  4. PHOSPHORUS, FOOD, AND OUR FUTURE
  5. QUANTITATIVE ECOTOXICOLOGY, SECOND EDITION
  6. TRACE METALS IN AQUATIC SYSTEMS

by Robert Mason

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When I began perusing this new book, I was struck by its similarity to Luoma and Rainbow's Metal Contamination in Aquatic Environments. They cover the same general topic, have a similar style, and, because Mason cites few studies published since 2008, they seem to cover the same body of science. Metal Contamination in Aquatic Environments has been an important reference for me. I pull it off the shelf when I am working on a new assessment or reviewing an assessment that involves aqueous metals, and as a result, it currently has eight pages flagged. Should I now reach first for Mason's book? Which one should you buy if you have neither?

Mason's book is the product of a knowledgeable and experienced marine geochemist and university professor. Its scholarly and academic perspective is reflected in the fact that the first chapter is a history of metal aquatic chemistry and the second is a review of metal cycling in the biosphere. Each chapter ends with a summary in the form of numbered points and a set of problems for students. Luoma and Rainbow are more focused on the application of chemistry to the management of metals in the aquatic environment. Rather than problems, its chapters end with suggested readings, which would be particularly useful to someone using the book to bring themselves up to speed.

Mason's book is stronger in its presentation of mathematical analysis, with many more equations and a chapter on speciation modeling. It is also much more concerned with analytical methods and the issues surrounding ultra-clean techniques for analysis of very low concentrations.

For me, the difference in these books is best illustrated by their treatments of bioaccumulation, which is a research interest of the authors of both books. Both chapters are clear and authoritative. Mason treats metal accumulation in his final chapter, having devoted the preponderance of text to transport, fate, and speciation. Mason's book, it would prepare students well for a traditional career in environmental chemistry. Luoma and Rainbow treat bioaccumulation in the 7th of 18 chapters and go on to discuss biomonitoring, toxicity testing, derivation of guidelines, and other management issues. It would prepare a student more broadly for a career in environmental sciences.

Mason and Wiley have provided a very nice resource for readers, a Web site with Microsoft Powerpoint files of all figures and Adobe pdf files of all tables, as well as answers to questions. They are free for personal use and teaching and are easily available for other uses which require permission. This should be done routinely by publishers.

In summary, I benefited from reading Trace Metals in Aquatic Systems, despite already being familiar with its competitor, and I will be glad to have it on my shelf as a reference. However, as an ecological risk assessor, I will probably continue to rely on Luoma and Rainbow's book as the first source to answer my metals questions. However, if you are a chemist and particularly if you are not current with metals chemistry, or if your problem is with metal transport and fate, you will probably want Mason as your primary reference.

2013. 431 pp. Hardcover. ISBN 978-1-4051-6048-3. $130. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, United Kingdom.

  • Glenn Suter

  • SETAC Reviews Editor

REFERENCE

Luoma SN Rainbow PS. 2008. Metal Contamination in Aquatic Environments: Science and Lateral Management. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press. 573 p.