CM Archive
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Lloyd Tataryn.

Toronto, James Lorimer, c1983.
178pp, paper, $19.95 (cloth), $12.95 (paper).
ISBN 0-88862-653-3 (cloth), 0-88862-652-5 (paper).

Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by John D. Crawford.

Volume 12 Number 3
1984 May

The dangers inherent in the inadequately supervised use of chemicals in our society have often been brought to public attention only after considerable damage has been done. Thalidomide was perhaps the most horrific example of this, but compounds such as DDT were in widespread use, causing incalculable damage before their effect on the environment was understood. Tataryn's book focuses attention on a chemical that affects many facets of our everyday lives. This chemical, formaldehyde, became a matter of public concern, when UFFI (urea formaldehyde foam insulation) was found to affect residents in homes that contain it.

The reader obtains several understandings from this highly readable book. In the first place, the dimensions of the formaldehyde industry are shown to be quite awesome. This chemical is ubiquitous and could have a tremendous impact on the environment we live in. The inadequacy of government in protecting the public is revealed in subsequent chapters. This inadequacy must be seen against a background of industry pressure in favour of their products. It is difficult to avoid the implication that misrepresentation and carelessness were present during the process by which UFFI was approved for public use.

We live in a world where the experts differ and the truth is not always apparent. The most benevolent interpretation of the controversy, which is the central theme of Formaldehyde On Trial, is that ignorance rather than deceit was the underlying problem. Tataryn gives the reader cause for considerable apprehension as to where the use of an ever-increasing range of chemical compounds is taking us. Most of such products are invaluable but the lack of adequate safeguards against the few dangerous chemicals that reach the marketplace could lead to a backlash by the consuming public.

The author must be commended for presenting his arguments in a fairly objective manner. The appendices and the notes indicate a great deal of research, which is reflected in the body of the text.

John D. Craw ford, Frank Hobbs E. S., Victoria, BC.
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