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Michael Painter, chief chemist in a perfume mega-firm, finds his lifelong experience challenged by the realities of worldwide air and water pollution. The challenge, signaled by the chemical illness of his friend and assistant, Lillian Aronson, comes as he is about to supervise a new perfume triumph, based on a rare rose from the three hundred foot high canopy of the Venezuelan rain forest. Painter at first refuses to concede that chemicals, especially those he deals with in perfume manufacture, are dangerous to human health. As evidence of the global threat mounts, he becomes a guardian of planet earth.