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Persistent toxic substances: exposed individuals and exposed populations
  1. M Porta
  1. Institut Municipal d’Investigació Mèdica, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain, and School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor M Porta
 Carrer del Dr Aiguader 80 Barcelona, Spain;

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On the lintel of his classic The strategy of preventive medicine,1 Geoffrey Rose (1926–1993) inscribed these words of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881): “We are all responsible for all”. The idea that as citizens and societies we have shared, common responsibilities in front of threats to health is central to epidemiology, public health, even to clinical medicine… and to virtually all other professions and scientific disciplines. Why should it not also be relevant to urbanism, pedagogy, biology, or chemistry? It is of course also central to literature and most other forms of artistic expression.

In the following fragment of his poem Palabras para Julia2 (Words for Julia), the Spanish writer José Agustín Goytisolo (Barcelona, 1928−1999) wrote:

Un hombre solo una mujer
 así tomados de uno
 en unoson como polvo no son nada.
 Tu destino está en los demás
 tu futuro es tu propia vida
 tu dignidad es la de todos. A man alone, a woman,
 taken like that, one by one,
 are like dust, they are nothing.
 Your destiny is in the others
 your future is your own life,
 your dignity that of everyone.

The poem has been part of the Spanish …

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  • A previous version of this essay was published in Spanish in Gaceta Sanitaria.3

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