Environmental Toxicology

Environmental toxicology (ecotoxicology) is a unique discipline that combines ecology and toxicology, in order to the study of effects of pollutants on ecosystems. The main tasks of the ecotoxicologist are to assess objectively the risks resulting from contamination by polluting substances and ensure environmental protection and management for the benefit of the community, through the development of ecologically acceptable principles and practices.

Environmental toxicology is a multidisciplinary science involving many widely diverse areas of study such as:

  • chemistry, the characterisation of toxins;
  • pharmacology, the mode of entry and distribution of toxins in the body;
  • biochemistry, the metabolism and interaction of toxins with cell components;
  • physiology, the effect of toxins on body organs;
  • genetics, the effect toxins can have on the reproductive system and on future generations by altering genetic codes;
  • biology, the effect of toxins on the environment;
  • epidemiology, the effect on the population as a whole of chronic exposure to small quantities of suspected agents;
  • law, regulation of the use or release into the environment of toxic substances; and
  • economics, evaluation of the environmental cost against the benefit of economic development and the determination of trade-offs among economy, health and the environment.