This book starts with a look at the scandal of arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh in which tubewells put in with the help of oveerseas aid delivered water with high levels of arsenic to the population. We then find out about the occurence and use of arsenic throughout the ages - well known as a poison, but also taken for supposed health benefits. In fact poisoners have got let off by claiming that the victim was taking arsenic voluntarily. There's also arsenic on wallpaper and even in food colouring! A depressing subject maybe, but an entertaining read for anyone, in particular those wanting to put the risks we face today into context.
So how was the delivery of arsenical water in Bangladesh, which will probably result in hundreds of thousands of deaths, allowed to happen. Was it a case of severe negligence by the aid agencies, or was it a risk that had to be balanced with that of bacteria laden water? The fact is that even in richer countries there has been a puzzling acceptance of this arsenic in our environment. The accepted level in the USA was 50 parts per billion until recently, which has probably led to thousands of deaths. Even that early environmental campaigner William Morris of the Arts and Crafts movement is shown to have conisderable responsibility for the use of this poison.