FROM CHILDREN’S toys and the clothes we wear, to the food we eat and the air we breathe — even what seem to be benign can harm us. Indeed, the 16th century German-Swiss alchemist and physician Paracelsus had exclaimed, “All substances are poisons, there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison and a remedy.”
Poisoning is a global problem, and as our world becomes more complex, the risk of poisoning has increased. Yet it is highly likely that poisoning cases are underdiagnosed, partly because we know so little about the effects of small doses of chemicals during the development of our bodies. Recall that it was only three decades ago that we realized the hazards posed by lead, which had been a popular ingredient in paint and other everyday objects. By then generations had been exposed to the substance, which in toxic levels can cause retarded mental growth in children and can mimic intestinal parasitism (abdominal colic and anemia).
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