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December 23, 1983

Of Mice and Molecules: Technology and Human Survival

Author Affiliations

University of Toronto

JAMA. 1983;250(24):3341-3342. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03340240067037

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Every year the news media report a number of incidents where the health of a group of people was threatened because of some chemical. Given the massive use we make of chemical products in almost every sphere of activity, the number of these events may seem to be insignificant, as tragic as each one may be. This book presents us with a different picture. It reviews, chapter by chapter, the chemical hazards in our working environment, air, water, food, and wastes, as well as hazards from radiation. The evidence inevitably leads to the question of whether "life on earth isn't in as much danger of being irrevocably poisoned by the substances these cultures [ie, the industrially advanced ones] manufacture in staggering quantities as it is of being vaporized in a thermonuclear war."

There are about 65,000 chemical compounds in common use, and we currently add some 500 new ones each