Reviews – The Secret Life of Chemicals

1. Chain Reaction (Friends of the Earth magazine)

Chain Reaction – review by Anthony Amis (PDF)

2. Em Professory Bob Douglas AO

Overview by Em Prof Bob Douglas AO, Former Director, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at The Australian National University

‘This is a very carefully researched book, which provides extensive information on the chemicals that inhabit our environment, our food, our water and our air and the impact that they may be having on human health. The author is a medical scientist, with training in the law.

In 17 chapters and 276 pages he documents current understanding about pesticides in food, the plastics revolution, toxic metals, air pollutants, chemical exposure in the workplace, radiation pollutants, how our bodies deal with chemicals, genetic variability and the risk of disease, the effect of chemicals on genes, mitochondria and the immune system and what we can do about it all.

The take-home message from the book is disturbing. Industrialisation has resulted in many thousands of chemicals, which are being continuously developed and often escaping from where they are used into our human environment, without us really knowing enough about them. In high dosages or with continuous small dosage, the evidence suggests, that many of them could interfere with human health and some of them are known to be doing so. But for the vast majority, we are left wondering whether some could be responsible for some diseases the causes of which are inadequately understood. Every chapter is thoroughly reinforced with several pages of references from the peer-reviewed literature or less commonly, from the Internet.

This reader is left with a clear view that we cannot continue to go on as we are, with a finite planet, a growing human population and very light touch government regulation of new chemicals as they are produced and released. The so-called greenhouse gases, which are accumulating in the upper atmosphere dramatically illustrate the magnitude of the threat to civilisation from chemical pollution . The poisoning of the planet and its living inhabitants is one of an interlinked series of ten massive threats to the survival of our species. The others that are being largely ignored by politicians everywhere, are the consequences of the changing climate, human population growth, food insecurity, ecosystem destruction, depletion of the resources on which our societies depend, the threat of nuclear war, uncontrolled technology, pandemic diseases and, above all, the mass self-delusion, that these things are too far in the future for us to worry about. Dealing with these threats is not rocket science but it requires unprecedented collaboration across nations, industrial sectors and across national and ethnic groups.. Without global collaboration in transformative change aimed at mitigating these, there is every reason to believe that Homo sapiens is a doomed species.

For now, the author makes it clear that individuals can reduce risk to themselves by paying close attention to the origins and packaging of the foods we eat; to the sources of our drinking water and to the environment in which we work. But we must surely demand of our governments, more convincing regulatory actions directed towards the registration and production and release of new chemicals.’

Read The Secret Life of Chemicals review by Em Professor Bob Douglas A.O. (PDF)



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