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Book and Media Reviews
August 15, 2007

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

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: John L. Zeller, MD, PhD, Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2007;298(7):807-812. doi:10.1001/jama.298.7.810

Relatively few physicians have either training or interest in occupational and environmental medicine. The book How Everyday Products Make People Sick: Toxins at Home and in the Workplace is written by a physician whose practice is in this field. The text is designed to provide physicians in other specialties with a brief introduction to the field and to illustrate how various chemicals can cause illness.

The strength of the text is the author's historical and prevention-oriented approach. Blanc refers to medical and other documents, many of which are not cited in standard occupational medicine or toxicology texts, to document how environmental policy is made. He describes repeated instances of slow recognition of the toxicity of various chemicals and the likewise slow reaction by governmental agencies in making and enforcing rules and regulations to decrease exposure to these chemicals. He vividly describes political battles with respect to lead, asbestos, and many less familiar chemicals—battles in which industry opposition to government regulations either weakened regulations or kept regulations from being put into place. He also reminds us that many medical findings of chemical toxicity were discovered and then rediscovered many years or even centuries later.