In the Classroom


History of Toxicology

Paracelsus, pictured here, was a 16th century physician and is considered to be the “Father of Toxicology.”  Toxicology as a distinct scientific discipline is fairly modern; however, knowledge of poisons and poisoning incidents date back to ancient times.  Humankind’s desire to assure its health and safety has always been present, but drawing conclusions about harmful chemicals required learning.  Initially this was done by trial and error, where substances were tested to see which were safe and which were best avoided.  Written documents dating back to around ...

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Radiation

The word “radiation” often evokes fear in people.  What is “radiation” and how does it affect us?  Let’s learn a bit more about this term.  Radiation is a form of energy to which we are constantly exposed and which may or may not have health consequences. It is given off by matter as either rays (or waves) of pure energy, or high-speed particles. The former, rays or waves of energy, is known as electromagnetic energy. Some types of electromagnetic energy are sunlight, x-rays, radar, and radio waves. The latter, particle radiation, includes, for example alpha ...

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Hazard vs Risk

The words ‘hazard’ and ‘risk’ are often confused.  Understanding the difference between ‘a hazard’ and ‘a risk’ is important for understanding the role of toxicology in assessing risks.  A hazard is anything that can cause harm, whereas risk is the potential for a hazard to cause harm.   You can also think of it this way:  A hazard will not pose any risk to you unless you are exposed to enough of that hazard to cause harm.  Risks associated with hazards can be eliminated, or at least greatly reduced, by reducing exposure. The relationship between ...

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When Good Chemicals Go Bad – A Seminar

The Society of Toxicology (SOT) partnered with the Smithsonian Institution’s Resident Associates program in 2011 to present the full day seminar captured in these videos.  Topics included the history of toxicology, general principles, air and water pollution, environmental epigenomics, nanotoxicology, and alternatives to animal testing.  See the agenda below.  Many of the issues discussed can also be found in more recent or upcoming Tox Topics here on the TEF website.   Please note that although the videos are somewhat longer than others on the TEF site, your ...

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What is Thirdhand Smoke?

Chemicals released in cigarette smoke that can stick to clothing walls and ceilings, carpets, draperies and furniture upholstery are referred to as thirdhand smoke.  Thirdhand smoke also includes new chemical products, some yet-to-be identified.   These are formed when components of cigarette smoke react with other constituents in the air and in surfaces on which they are deposited.  Identifying and measuring the various components of this newly-formed “chemical soup” pose a big challenge in addition to understanding their undesirable health effects. Thirdhand ...

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Pesticides: The Challenge of Controlling Pests When Balancing Safety with Effectiveness

First let's define pest.  A pest can be almost any living thing considered by us, humans, to be undesirable; for example, insects, rats, mice and other animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, and viruses.  Even deer, when they go after your shrubs or vegetable garden, can be considered nuisance animals or pests.  The challenge of pesticide use is to maximize their effectiveness against pests while minimizing their hazards to humans, other animals, and the environment. As with most complex issues, there are bound to be tradeoffs. OK, so what is a pesticide? A pesticide ...

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Nanotechnology

There is a lot of excitement about nanotechnology.  “Nano” has become a familiar term in the world today but there is often little understanding of what it is.  For example, a poll of 1,001 adults in 2009 found 90 percent of Americans think that the public should be better informed about the development of cutting-edge technologies like nanotechnology (Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies).  We will provide some basics that can help you understand more about nanotechnology and especially about how the safety of products made with nanotechnology is established. ...

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Watch Our Newest Featured Video “Toxicity Today”

In “Toxicity Today” viewers will enjoy a comic taste of the “sometimes not poisonous and sometimes very poisonous” Botox® and the not always as safe as you think overconsumption of water – brought to you by the Toxicology Education Foundation (toxedfoundation.org), a resource for information about chemicals in our world and tips for how we can evaluate health risks while reaping the benefits of medicines and other chemicals. To learn more about Botulinum Toxin and Botox®, Water Intoxication (dilutional hyponatremia), Basics of Dose and Exposure, and Hazard ...

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Botulinum Toxin and Botox®

Where does Botox® come from? The neurotoxins produced by the bacterium clostridium botulinum1, categorized as types A through E, are the most potent acute toxins known (more toxic than snake or spider venom) and are the cause of the paralytic disease botulism.  C. botulinum, first isolated in 1895, is most often associated with the consumption of contaminated food.  However, it was not until 1946 that botulinum toxins were isolated and purified.  Botulinum toxins, if prepared as an aerosol, have the potential to be potent biological weapons.  One gram of an ...

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All Natural! All Safe? Everything is a Chemical

Media sources today are full of stories of chemicals in our food, in our environment, in our bodies.  The basic premise of these stories is that these chemicals, by their very nature as chemicals, must be harmful and therefore avoided.  Contrast this with the counter argument, also quite common in the same media sources, regarding all natural foods, supplements and general cure-alls which, by their very nature as being all natural, must be quite beneficial and at the very  least, not harmful.  This is a great misconception and ignores a simple basic truth that everyt...

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