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The Poison Paradox : Chemicals as Friends and Foes [Hardcover]

John Timbrell
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

23 Jun 2005
Every day we are surrounded by chemicals that are potentially harmful. Some of these we take intentionally in the form of drugs; some we take unknowingly through the food we eat, and the environment around us. John Timbrell explores what makes particular chemicals harmful, what their effects are, and how we can test for them. He examines drugs such as Paracetamol and what it does to the body; Ricin, the most toxic substance known to man; Paraquat, a widely available weedkiller; and how the puffer fish, eaten as a delicacy in Japan, can kill. Using case studies from all around the world, such as the Spanish Oil syndrome which made over 20,000 people ill in Madrid, Timbrell uncovers the facts behind chemical scares. He shows how, with a rational, scientific, and balanced approach, risks can be assessed and managed safely.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (23 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192804952
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192804952
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 900,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


Compelling... Skip your high-production-value crime drama on the television tonight, and spend the evening with the Poison Paradox. I doubt you will read every page, but I think you might enjoy those that you do. (Wendy Sharpe, The Lancet)

An excellent new book. (Mark Henderson, The Times)

About the Author

John Timbrell is Professor of Biochemical Toxicology in the Department of Pharmacy, King's College, London. He is the author of two successful toxicology textbooks (Taylor and Francis) and the editor of a major journal. This will be his first publication for a general audience.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating facts about poisons 15 Nov 2005
By A Customer
I found this book really interesting. In fact I was amazed. I’d read so many things in magazines and papers about chemicals like dioxin and insecticides and just thought that they were all poisonous and dangerous. Then I read this book and found it wasn’t quite like that,because it depends on the amount and some of them are useful and make our lives better-like people now live longer and are healthier. The book also talks about how chemicals get inside us and what they do. Its explained really clearly, especially for someone like me who doesn’t have any scientific background. But there are also lots of interesting stories also about poisoning cases and historical stuff. Then at the end there is a section on risk from chemicals and how its measured, which was a bit complicated but really interesting. I’d recommend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars old dog learns new tricks 3 Mar 2011
By monica
4 1/2 stars. This is an exemplary science book for the general reader and is more absorbing than many and many a novel.

The first few chapters are background ones covering poisons, medicines, and the actions of chemicals upon the body. The last of these especially was exciting for me: heretofore my eyes would have skimmed over any sentence containing 'metabolite' or 'induction of enzymes', but Trimball's presentation is so outstandingly good that I understood and learned rather than simply shoving necessary definitions into my short-term memory.

The bulk of Poison Paradox is devoted to different sorts of chemicals that might do us harm--such as those occurring naturally, pesticides, industrial poisons, murder weapons--and their effects on the body. From the action of a chemical and the body's reactions to and defenses against it and carrying on to overt symptoms of poisoning, these effects are explained thoroughtly and intelligibly, with the aid of very helpful illustrations, cross-references, and case histories.

Not surprisingly, there's some gee-whiz stuff here as well: A stiff gin is an antidote to a form of alcohol poisoning. There was a time when to eat green blancmange was to ingest a dose of arsenic, though presumably only colour-blind diners with undeveloped palates suffered the consequences. Oxygen can be toxic. And I'll never again knowingly eat an organically grown peanut.

A couple of very slight flaws were for me a glossary that could have been improved upon and a tendency here and there to unnecessary repetition. (A pronounced tendency in the case of Paracelsus's dictum, in fact.)

Timbrell is a professor of biochemical toxicology, and his students must consider themselves lucky: Someone who can spark an interest in and a delight in learning about biochemistry in me must be a very fine teacher indeed.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating book about the chemicals around us 10 Nov 2005
By A Customer
This is a really fascinating book which is full of stories and information about chemicals and poisoning. I only have an O level in Biology and knew nothing about poisons or toxicology but I found the book very easy to read and it clearly explained how chemicals like drugs and things found in food get into the body and affect it and why the amount of chemical is important. Each chapter covers a different kind of chemical such as drugs, pesticides, substances in nature. There are lots of interesting historical stories and at the end there is a chapter on the risks from chemicals. It’s the sort of book you can dip into and always read something interesting anytime. Anybody who takes a drug or uses weedkiller or is just generally interested in science and the world around them should get this book
I bought this book after reading a review in the Times which is a good summary of the book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction for the layman 31 Dec 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having an interest in chemical warfare I found this book to be very interesting and a useful reference source. The explanations given are devoid of deep technical terminology which can easily put-off the non-technical reader..
To apprecate the subject matter discussed in the book the reader does not have to have a wealth of knowledge in the areas of chemistry or biology.
A little detail on production and delivery systems / methods would not have gone amiss,but, overall the book was worth the money, I enjoyed reading it and learnt a lot.............cannot say fairer than that .
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not a great read 31 Aug 2005
I read a lot. And I read a lot of science (being a physicist at heart). I was quite interested in this book from the cover, the publishers review and the possible content. However, I have to admit that I was disappointed.
It's well written, and informative, but didn't engage me. The start of the book is too lengthy in its explanation on how poisons enter and are dealt with by the body. Perhaps this was because it was telling me things I already knew, but I found it a little boring - in fact, I ended up skipping the first parts because of this, and straight into the main content.
This was not as interesting as I thought it would be either. Though full of information, there was no real data or facts. I expected each poison to be explained in chemical sense and then what it does to the body in detail (physical, mental, symptoms etc). I just didn't feel like there was enough.
My one pleasure was discovering there is arsenic in apple seeds, but it was literally one sentence. Meanwhile I've stopped eating the pips now (20 years too late, maybe!!).
This book is okay, and is good in the popular science areana, but for anyone looking for detail and interest....I think we need to go elsewhere.
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