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Naturally Dangerous

James P. Collman Stanford University


This book has been written so that it can be understood by all readers—nonscientists, engineers, physicians, and scientists alike. Other than a few molecular formulas, there are no long chemical formulas, nor is there any math. The material included should be of interest to everyone because it relates to molecules and phenomena that affect our everyday lives. You will find surprising things: little-known facts about organic and commercial foods, natural herbs, modern medicine, and the environment. Interesting historical facts behind certain issues are sprinkled in the text. For example, did you know that George Washington gained advantage over the British forces by inoculating his troops with live smallpox virus? You will also discover that nothing is completely safe nor risk-free, even natural substances.  For example, ingestion of grapefruit juice may be much more hazardous for certain people than ingestion of pesticide residues. You will encounter the recurring theme that, in many situations involving real or purported health risks, there is no “free lunch,” or perfect solution, but that choices must be made balancing one risk against another.   

This account includes many fascinating subjects, perhaps too many to digest by reading the book from beginning to end. The good news is that you can start anywhere and move about the book, as the chapters each stand alone. The Contents and Index both should help guide you in browsing or reviewing topics that interest you. Scientific terms are defined in the Glossary. For those who want more information or original sources, a Further Reading list is included at the end, organized by chapter. After reading this book, I hope you will recommend it to your friends and neighbors. 

  –J. Collman