Review from Econ Geol v 100 n 1 p1263-1264 (2006) by Pat Rasmussen

"Essentials of Medical Geology has been edited meticulously by Olle Selinus and the team of associate editors. There are no formatting inconsistencies to detract from the content. Each chapter follows the same organizational framework, with its own short list of contents on the front page. At the end of each chapter is a list of other chapters in the book that contain related material. This is particularly useful where information about certain topics (notably arsenic, iodine, and fluoride) may appear in a number of different chapters. A guide to “Further Reading” is provided for each chapter, enhancing the usefulness of this book. Without exception, each author has used language that is both accessible and interesting to nonspecialists. The reader is assisted by the inclusion of an extensive glossary in the appendix that provides definitions
for referenced geologic and health science terms. Most importantly, great care has been taken in the peer review of the scientific content.

This is a fascinating reference work that will inevitably find its way into earth sciences classrooms, but also will appeal to a wider readership, including public health scientists and decision makers. Anyone looking to explore the field of medical geology will be captivated by the contents of this publication."



"There is no obvious single-volume competitor to this book in the field it describes and it can be strongly recommended for the personal or library bookshelves of its target audeince of 'upper division undergraduates, graduate students, environmental geoscientists, epidemiologiests, medics and decision-makers."
-John G. Farmer, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, SCIENCEDIRECT JUNE 2005

"Remarkably detailed and comprehensive in its coverage, this volume has excellent reference tables and colorful graphic and maps. The index makes it easy to quickly fine a variety of information-from natural sources and extraction pathways to biological function, toxicity, and health effects of exposure to minerals and other substances. Summing up: Essential. Medical and public health libraries. Highly recommended. Libraries supporting related studies in toxicology, pathology, geochemistry, and environmental epidemiology, at the upper undergraduate level and above."
- CHOICE, September 2006

"...strongly recommended for the personal or library bookshelves of its target audience of "upper division undergraduates, graduate students, environmental geoscientists, epidemiologists, medics and decision-makers."
John G. Farmer for "Science of the Total Environment"

Episodes, Vol 30 No 3, September 2007

Extensive review by:

Professor R Howarth
University College London, UK

"Overall Essentials of medical Geology is an extremely impressive volume and should be essential reading for students and professionals involved in environmental geoscience.

Full review

"This is an extraordinary book. It is compendial and readily informative at the same time...I’m most pleased to have had the opportunity to learn a lot while I reviewed this book and thus recommend it highly and without reservation. It’s a “must-have” for a well rounded academic bookshelf!"
- David F. Hardwick, MD, FRCPC, LLD, The University of British Columbia

Full review

Reviewer: Dr. Moebius (from

There is nothing else that compares to this concise introduction to the subject. I have no doubt it will help to increase your awareness of the importance of the interaction of mammalian systems with our natural environment. Highly accessible and nicely illustrated -- it is evident that a team of dedicated medics and geoscientists invested long nights editing and minimizing jargon. For this the world should be thankful! This 800+ page full-color tome highlights some of the significant interfaces of medicine and earth science. Most of the topics are fascinating, such as Skinner's review of the 'Mineralogy of Bone'. If you forgot what geophagy is, look no further than Peter Abrahams chapter. So finally there is an accessible primer for medical schools, I might predict that several institutions will begin using Selinus for courses in medical geology. The book's organization has laid a nice foundation for this emerging transdisciplinary study. The seven editors and some 50 contributors should be congratulated for sharing a common vision to its fruition. At 12 cents a page, I love it!!!!

Reviewer: Görel Thurdin, former Minister of the Environment and speaker of the parliament

Essentials of Medical Geology

As minister for environment and physical planning I recognized the need of using data across faculty boarders I therefore welcome this book. The book focuses on the strong connection between human health and the natural environment. Every decision maker who wants to contribute to a sustainable development needs this book.

Görel Thurdin
former minister for environment and speaker of the parliament

Book review

Science of The Total Environment
Volume 357, Issues 1-3, 15 March 2006, Pages 296-297

O. Selinus (Editor-in-Chief), B.J. Alloway, J.A. Centeno, R.B. Finkelman, R. Fuge, U. Lindh, P. Smedley (Associate Editors), Essentials of Medical Geology, Elsevier Academic Press, Burlington, MA, USA, San Diego CA, USA, London, UK, ISBN 0-12-636341-2, 2005, xiv+812 pp. $99.95, £59.99.

John G.
School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3JJ, UK
Accepted 19 April 2005. Available online 20 June 2005.

What's in a name or title of a book? A great deal—and the editors of this multi-authored, multi-disciplinary tome, which weighs in at 2.5 kg, have taken great pains to define the subject of Medical Geology. The title's strap line–“Impacts of the Natural Environment on Public Health”–helps, as does the opening paragraph of the senior editor's preface to the book, viz. “Medical geology is the science dealing with the relationship between natural geological factors and health in humans and animals and with understanding the influence of ordinary environmental factors on the geographical distribution of such health problems”. Furthermore, “Medical geology, which focuses on the impacts of geologic materials and processes (i.e. the natural environment) on animal and human health, can be considered as complementary to environmental medicine. The field of medical geology brings together geoscientists and medical and public health researchers to address health problems caused or exacerbated by geologic materials such as rocks, minerals and water and geologic processes such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and dust”.

The book, after a fascinating first chapter on “Medical Geology: Perspectives and Prospects”, is organised in four main sections: “Environmental Biology” (7 chapters, 186 pages), “Pathways and Exposure” (12 chapters, 326 pages), “Environmental Toxicology, Pathology and Medical Geology” (5 chapters, 104 pages) and “Techniques and Tools” (6 chapters, 135 pages). It should be firmly noted, however, that geochemistry or, more precisely, the environmental geochemistry of the trace elements is central to (albeit on its own insufficient for) the book's overarching theme.

Section I deals with the natural distribution and abundance of elements, anthropogenic sources, the uptake of elements from a chemical point of view, the uptake of elements from a biological point of view, the biological function of the elements, geological impacts upon nutrition and the biological responses of elements. Inevitably, there is some overlap between these introductory overview chapters but there is something for everyone here, irrespective of prior disciplinary leanings, and the multi-faceted approach lays a suitable foundation for the rest of the book.

Section II, focusing on air, water and soil pathways of exposure, includes specific chapters on the environmental geochemistry of some of the key elements usually associated with the impact of the natural environment upon health, namely arsenic, selenium, radon, fluorine and iodine. Written, with the exception of that on iodine, by scientists from the British Geological Survey, these five chapters are up-to-date review articles on some of the most pressing problems, most notably that of drinking water arsenic, in various parts of the world. The other chapters in this section are much less single-element-specific but tackle the impact of water hardness, volcanic emissions and natural aerosolic mineral dusts upon human health, as well as more general topics such as the bioavailability of elements in soil, geophagy and the involuntary ingestion of soil, and the ecology of soil-borne human pathogens. A chapter on animals and medical geology concludes the section.

Section III deals with environmental epidemiology (“the study of associations between environmental exposures and the occurrence of disease within a population”), environmental medicine (“the study of how the environment affects health, including the practice of how to minimize any adverse effects”), environmental pathology (“the study of toxic reactions and potential adverse effects on the physiological function of organ systems arising from exposure to hazardous pollutants in the environment” and toxicology (“toxicokinetics, the study and description of how xenobiotics enter and are handled by the body, and toxicodynamics, the study and description of what the xenobiotic does to the body”). This is predominantly a didactic section, one which should be much welcomed by those whose previous education (e.g. traditionally trained geologists and chemists) has been deficient in this most important area of understanding environmental influence upon health. The final chapter of the section, however, on speciation of trace elements would have been better placed in Section IV.

Section IV gathers together a wide range of topics under the heading of techniques and tools, including remote sensing, geographical information systems (GIS), the mineralogy of bone, inorganic and organic geochemistry techniques, histochemical and microprobe analysis, and the modelling of groundwater flow and quality. Inevitably less coherent than the other Sections, the final section is nevertheless important and worthy of inclusion as it emphasises the importance of analytical investigation.

This is a well-conceived and well-designed book, clearly the fruit of much careful planning. It succeeds as both a work of reference and a general text book. The thorough referencing, cross-referencing, 17-page glossary and 20-page index are invaluable aids to the specialist and non-specialist reader alike. The production quality is high, with many of the numerous illustrations in full colour.

There is no obvious single-volume competitor to this book in the field it describes and it can be strongly recommended for the personal or library bookshelves of its target audience of “upper division undergraduates, graduate students, environmental geoscientists, epidemiologists, medics and decision-makers”. One hopes that the book will stimulate dialogue among geochemists, epidemiologists, clinicians and veterinarians, especially as engaging and sustaining the interest of the medical community in the western world in the field of medical geology has hitherto proved somewhat difficult. This has not been the case in much of the developing world, such as Asia and Africa, where some of the severest and most widespread problems exist.

A final thought. In the wider sphere and widest sense of environmental (geo)chemistry and health, one wonders if there is perhaps a single-volume companion to this excellent text just waiting to be written on impacts of anthropogenic releases of heavy metals, such as lead, mercury and cadmium, and of synthetic organic chemicals, such as pesticides, upon public health.

By Olle Selinus, Brian Alloway, Jose Centeno, Robert B Finkelman, Ron Fuge, Ulf Lindh, Pauline Smedley,
Elsevier, Academic Press, Amsterdam 2005.

While Geology may seem far removed from the problems of human health, Medical Geology is the science dealing with the interplay of natural geological elements in human and animal health. It stresses the effects of environmental factors on the geography of health problems. As such this is a multidisciplinary subject allowing geoscientists and medical and public health experts to characterise major problems of disease. So this book brings together a range of experts to examine the basis of medical geology in four sections. The first, Environmental Biology examines elements and their biological function. Section 2, Pathways and Exposures, looks at a range of problems including arsenic in ground water, fluoride in natural waters, and selenium deficiency and toxicity in the environment. Section 3, Environmental Toxicology, Pathology and Medical Geology covers environmental epidemiology, pathology and toxicology. The final section 4 explores Techniques and Tools, including the mineralogy of bone. Thirty one chapters in all gives the essentials of medical geology, with a clear text and an excellent range of figures. For one interested in human disease the uptake of elements by biological systems was of central interest as was the fine chapter on environmental pathology dedicated to the memory of Kamal G Ishak. This book will be read particularly by those who wish to explore the effects of elements in particular diseases. It will certainly have a place in major libraries. While this will serve as a very good reference book, for those who want an introduction to the field of medical geology this book is a fine overview of the field. For students and general readers, it is an excellent starting point to study the interplay of the geology, toxicology and pathology so that the importance of geology in health and disease in humans and animals is a reality. A greater understanding of these complex relationships can only lead to a better understanding of the natural environment and human health.

H Konrad Muller
Professor Emeritus of Pathology
Acting Director Anatomical Pathology
Queensland Health Pathology Services
Brisbane, Australia

Essentials of Medical Geology: Impacts of the Natural Environment on Public Health

Edited by Olle Selinus, Brian Alloway, José A. Centeno, Robert B. Finkleman, Ron Fuge, Ulf Lindh, and Pauline Smedley

Burlington, MA:Elsevier Academic Press, 2005. 812 pp. ISBN: 0-1263-6341-2, $99.95 cloth

Published in Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 113, Number 11, November 2005

Emerging disease, pesticides, antibiotic resistance, heavy metals--every time we turn around it seems we face frightening new threats to the health of every living organism on our planet. In response, we have seen a dramatic increase in the development of new, transdisciplinary approaches including environmental medicine, conservation medicine, health social science, and One World, One Health--but medical geology?

Readers will not have to get far into this book to become convinced that geologic expertise has much to contribute to our understanding of and response to global health issues. Medical geology, which examines the impacts of geologic materials and processes on human and ecosystem health including both natural and anthropogenic sources of potential health problems, includes animal and plant diseases. The editors set ambitious goals for this book, noting in the preface that this volume could be used as both a reference and a general textbook for a diverse audience including students, geoscientists, medics, decision makers, and the general public.

The first section, "Environmental Biology," builds from individual inorganic reactions to cells, organisms, and ecosystems, laying a sound foundation for the concepts to follow. For those with medical backgrounds, one of the most useful aspects is the very different view that geologists bring to health issues. This section builds a firm foundation for the subsequent chapters, intertwining geologic and biologic chapters.

The second section, "Pathways and Exposures," focuses primarily on "natural sources" of pollutants and their transport through air, water, and food chains and demonstrates the importance of unifying and integrating themes for understanding long-term, large-scale processes in ecosystem dynamics. Ecologic concepts are integrated with the epidemiologic and illustrated by real-world examples and experiments. Most chapters are fundamentally strong, but biologists may wish for deeper discussions of topics such as biologic magnification and effects on predatory species.

The third section, "Environmental Toxicology, Pathways and Medical Geology," includes a significant focus on epidemiology. This section is strong but repeats many basic principles (e.g., the metabolic handling of exogenous chemicals) and specific examples (e.g., discussions of arsenic, mercury, and lead) discussed in early chapters. The presence of contrasting explanations, opinions, and viewpoints can serve important didactic functions. Given that medically oriented authors wrote most of these chapters, this section may hold the most exciting ideas for the geologic readership.

The last section, "Techniques and Tools," is an excellent reminder of the breadth of applications included in medical geology. The discussions span imaging techniques from cellular to global and analytic methodologies from the molecular to tissue, watershed, and continental scales. Necessarily, many abstruse or cutting-edge techniques have not been included, but the medical audience will find relevance in those that are focused upon.

This wide-ranging and challenging introduction is filled with wonderful and frightening examples from around the world. The amalgam of theoretical, ecologic, and clinical cases with discussions of policy is one of the book's strongest points. The focus is primarily on human health, and although some examples involve domestic animals or plants, almost none address nonmammalian (especially nonvertebrate) species. Some chapters assume a fair degree of quantitative sophistication, so instructors should ensure that the text matches student abilities. Much of the material will excite students and involve them in analysis and discussion. Most chapters include a useful summary or conclusions, a list of related topics in other chapters, and a list of further reading, and many chapters emphasize a significant problem faced by researchers and policy makers working on the natural world.

This tour de force has several great strengths, including the marvelously international contributors. More than a theoretical approach, this volume is packed with real-world examples, cases, and information from research, clinical, and policy perspectives. Excellent illustrations, graphs, and photographs also complement many chapters and add markedly to the value of the book. Unfortunately, repetition of key examples throughout the text has made the book a bit less useful than some readers might wish; more diversity might be desirable in later editions.

For health specialists, graduate students, and the technically inclined, this book will be an invaluable resource. But it is a bit too large, technical, and imposing to be called "Essentials." The editors might consider preparing an abbreviated introductory text to attract a wider audience. The book is a forceful reminder that we need more geologic input incorporated into health assessments, environmental toxicology studies, and planning and policy initiatives--as recent events on the Gulf Coast of the United States so strongly demonstrate.

Mark Pokras

Mark Pokras trained in ecology at Cornell University and earned his DVM at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, where he currently teaches wildlife medicine and serves as Director of Tufts' Center for Conservation Medicine.

The Earth Doctors' diagnosis
Book Review by David Harper'

Published in European Geologist, nr 21, May 2006. P42

Essentials of Medical Geology. Impacts of the Natural Environment on Public Health.
Edited by Selinus, O., Alloway. B.. Cen-teno, J.A., Finkelman, R.B., Fuge, R., Lindh, U. and Smedley, P.

Published by Elsevier Academic Press Hardbound, ISBN: 0-12-636341-2 Date: 2005. 812 pages Price: 86.95 Euros

The ancient Greeks recognized the links between environment, geog-raphy and certain types of diseases: moreover mineral potions have been rou-tinely used for the treatment of diseases and medical conditions throughout his-toric times. Nevertheless the discipline of Medical Geology, however obvious, is relatively new. In short, Medical Geology investigates the effects. both nega-tive and positive, of geological materials and processes on human, animal and plant health. Apart from raising awareness in our environment and its proper stewardship, Medical Geology involves crossdisciplinary networking between earth scientists together with agicultural, biological, environmental, medical, public health and vet-erinary rescarchers. 'Essentials of Medi-cal Geology' brings together in some 800 pages, 31 articles on many aspects of this rapidly emerging science. The book was conceived initially through a number of shortcourses associated with IGCPproject 454 'Medical Geology' (http://www.iugs. org/iugs/news/medical.htm) and aims to bring to a wider public of undergraduate and graduate students together with scien-tists working in the area, current activity and advances in this field. The authors hope that 'Essentials' can act as both a work of reference and a textbook.

Coverage is wide and comprehensive, with sections on ' Environmental Biology', 'Pathways and Exposures'. 'Environmen-tal Toxicology. Pathology, and Medical Geology' and finally 'Techniques and Tools'. A clear theme in the book is the relationship between diseases and medical conditions, and geological deposits and processes based on demonstrable scientific rather than anecdotal evidence. Thus health problems can occur from a range of volcanic processes other than from direct contact with eruptive products: inhalation of radon gas has contributed to fatalities through lung cancer; arsenic, nitrate and selenium poisoning through drinking water is a real phenomenon in many parts of the world; and bone loss or retention is related to calcium mineral dynamics and the presence of fluorine, to name but a few. There are, however, a range of new investigative techniques emerging. For example, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can help now establish regional and global databases for the distribution of health problems together with their geo-logical settings, whereas a range of traditional and newer innovative geochemical techniques can help further resolve the mineral complexes that both directly and indirectly control human health.

This book is beautifully produced with clear illustrations and, generally, a readable text. It has a comprehensive glossary, an annotated list of important websites and a good index. The short introductions to each of the four sections are particularly useful. There is no doubt this will be the standard reference for some years to come but there is still a niche for a cheaper, simpler, textbook version of this giant tome.

'EurGeol. David Harper is Professor of Palaeontology and Deputy Head of Geology, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen.

September 2006
Volume 44, Number 1

Essentials of geology: impacts of the natural environment on public health, ed. by Olle Selinus wth Brian J. Alloway et al. Elsevier, 2005. 812p index ISBN 0126363412

Medical geology focuses on the impacts of geological materials (e.g., rocks, water) and processes (e.g., volcanic eruptions, earthquakes) on animal and human health. This one-volume encyclopedia is divided into four sections. The first section, “Environmental Biology,” offers an overview of key concepts in geology (e.g., the biogeochemical cycle) and a discussion of anthropogenic (human-caused) sources of environmental contamination including mining, power generation, waste disposal, agricultural practices, and water treatment. The remaining chapters delve into the chemistry of life, including cellular biochemistry, the uptake and regulation of major and minor elements and their function in human physiology, and mineral nutrition and biological monitoring. The second section, “Pathways and Exposures,” details the health impacts on humans of specific exposures – to volcanic emissions, radon, arsenic, fluoride, hard water, selenium, iodine, or aerosolized mineral dusts, or via geophagy. An additional chapter covers the relationship of minerals and trace elements to animal health.

Medical geology is a multidisciplinary field, and the book’s third part introduces the methods and contributions of several relevant disciplines: environmental epidemiology, environmental medicine, environmental pathology, and toxicology. The final section highlights several current techniques and tools for studying medical geology: GIS and remote sensing, mineralogy, inorganic and organic geochemistry techniques for solids and liquids, histochemical and microprobe analysis, and modeling of groundwater flow and quality. Remarkably detailed and comprehensive in its coverage, this volume has excellent reference tables and colorful graphics and maps. The index makes it easy to quickly find a variety of information – from natural sources and extraction pathways to biological function, toxicity, and health effects of exposure to minerals and other substances. Summing Up: Essential. Medical and public health libraries. Highly recommended. Libraries supporting related studies in toxicology, pathology, geochemistry, and environmental epidemiology, at the upper graduate level and above.
- K.H. Jacobsen, Calvin College