Andrew Meharg’s eminently readable popular science book, Venomous Earth, includes a succinct account of how massively hazardous arsenic-bearing shallow aquifers, extensively exploited for drinking and irrigation water in Bangladesh, West Bengal and elsewhere, have, as indicated by the title, caused what has been described as the ‘world’s worst mass poisoning’. Despite its title, however, the bulk of the book concerns itself with an anecdotal history of arsenic and, through its pharmaceutical, industrial and other applications, its health impacts on various other groups of people.

The Venomous Earth is well written for the non-technical lay audience. Simple ideas are presented...

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