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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Patricia Wong, MD (Stanford University Medical Center)
Description: This is an educational little book that is enjoyable to read. The author has a PhD in chemistry and plant biology and has done a good job summarizing the different plants, their oils, airborne pollens, and their fragrances that can contribute to dermatitis. Chemical structures are provided in detail and the chemistry used to study these plants is covered: vapor pressure of volatile dermatotoxic chemicals, etc.
Purpose: The purpose is to educate practitioners about allergic contact dermatitis and irritant dermatitis. Readers could take this one step further and use the book in planning their gardens to be potentially less inflammatory to their skin. Anyone who has a job outside and has had periodic skin problems may want to refer to this book or refer their physician to the book to identify precipitants.
Audience: The audience is anyone with occupational exposure to plants, biology students, physicians caring for patients with plant exposure and anyone who likes plants. The book deals with history, chemistry, prevention, and cross reactivity of plants.
Features: Color photographs of some of the more common nasty plants causing allergic dermatitis are included. I found myself wishing the author had written the book like the encyclopedia section of the Sunset Western Garden Annual (Sunset, 2004) with pictures of all the plants, but instead of including their growth requirements list their potential toxicities. I like the writer's style; it is like reading a story filled with all sorts of interesting facts.
Assessment: I've read a lot of the books on this subject and this is by far the most readable. There are more comprehensive books written by MDs, but it's always good to have another perspective on the topic and this book is worth reading before you decide to plant that fig tree you've always coveted!