The Chemical Educator, Vol. 7, No. 1, S1430-4171(02)01536-8, 10.1007/s00897020536a, © 2002 Springer-Verlag New York, Inc.

Pollution: Causes, Effects and Control (3rd Edition). By Roy M. Harrison (Editor), Royal Society of Chemistry, December 1996,480 pp. $69.95. £35 (UK). ISBN 054045341.

Crispin J. Halsall, Environmental Science Department,Lancaster University,

The general area of pollution science has been of growing importance in the last ten years or so, particularly given the rise in green issues and the plethora of courses now offered in the environmental sciences at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level. The first edition of this book predates this period, and its subsequent second edition, and now this third edition, have greatly expanded the topic areas of the first book. As many of the chapter authors have been retained throughout the three editions, the book has developed through the inclusion of up-to-date science and contemporary pollution issues. The third edition sees the addition of several excellent new chapters in areas such as persistent organic pollutants, soils and contaminated land, and air pollution and public health.

Pollution: Causes, Effects and Control is an ideal general introductory text at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level, as well as an excellent reference text for the environmental scientist, chemist, and consultant. Some background knowledge of chemistry and physics is required to fully appreciate many of the chapters, although those in management and regulatory affairs could still find this book a useful addition to their shelves. This book provides a good blend of science with regulatory/management practices aimed at the nature and control of contemporary pollution issues. The subject index provided is sufficiently detailed to allow this book to effectively serve as a reference handbook.

The book is broad-based, covering pollution in the major environmental compartments as well as covering specific issues such as radioactivity, sewage sludge, and control of pollutants from road traffic. Atmospheric pollution issues are covered extensively, with some seven of the twenty chapters focused on the atmospheric compartment alone. This doesn’t necessarily detract from the overall quality of the book, but does reflect the research area of the editor!

Importantly, three chapters focus on the detrimental effects of pollutants on living organisms. Two of these chapters examine the health effects of air pollutants on humans and vegetation while a third focuses on the effects of environmental chemicals on humans and animals. The inclusion of these chapters is welcome, given that many texts focusing on pollution describe only the chemistry and the physical dispersion of pollutants, but generally neglect health issues. Indeed, the chapters on the health effects of air pollution are in keeping with the broad nature of the book, because the chapter dealing with human health effects focuses on populations and epidemiology while the vegetation chapter details considerable biochemistry at the cellular level.

It is difficult to see how the third chapter on health effects of environmental chemicals meshes with the previous two chapters. This chapter is somewhat isolated and consists largely of case studies under the general subtitles of “Localised Contamination Incidents” and “Generalised Contamination Incidents.” These are somewhat nebulous titles, and nowhere in this chapter are the terms acute or chronic discussed, or for that matter the concepts of reference dose/acceptable daily intake or toxic equivalents. These concepts, however, are considered in an earlier chapter on toxic organic chemicals.

The real strength of this book lies in the scientific approach used to explain a pollutant problem, detailing the methods behind measurement, monitoring, and assessment as well as the way in which control technologies and legislation aimed at curbing pollutant formation and release are explained. The writing is good, with what appears to be a careful and up-to-date selection of literature to support each chapter. There is clear continuity among the various chapters with careful and appropriate use of figures and tables. Unfortunately, some of the figures, notably the maps denoting modelled concentrations of air pollutants, are of very poor quality, often simply showing black patches rather than various shades of grey! Despite this minor criticism, Pollution: Causes, Effects and Controls is a well-defined text and will undoubtedly be a welcome addition to university libraries.