Tox Topic


Dietary Supplements

A well balanced diet often satisfies your body’s needs, yet nutritional deficiencies can still occur in people maintaining a healthy diet.    This discussion is intended as a first look at some tips for consumers seeking reliable information about dietary supplements, whether or not these products have been recommended by a health professional.  Awareness of at least a few key points to remember and recommended resources for those choosing such products are the soundest advice we can offer. Some definitions and other background information  The U.S. Food and ...

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Alcohol and Alcoholism

Although, chemically, there are many types of alcohol, drinks known as alcoholic beverages contain some percentage of ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, which is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches.  Common alcoholic beverages include wine, beer, and distilled spirits (e.g. whiskey, brandy, rum, vodka).  For this Tox Topic, we will adopt the generally used though imprecise term, alcohol, to refer to alcoholic beverages.  Despite overwhelming scientific evidence attesting to the deleterious and potentially devastating effects of alcohol, the bottom line ...

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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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Occupational Safety and Health

Occupational Safety and Health includes standards and systems designed to assure safe and healthy working conditions for all workers.  It is the goal of employers (and employees) that no one is harmed or injured due to working conditions. This field is can be termed occupational safety and health, workplace safety and health, or industrial hygiene.  The law ensuring the right to workplace safety for U.S. workers is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).   Nonetheless, in many work ...

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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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Human Health Risk Assessment

The woman in this photo may not know she risks harming her unborn baby's health by smoking while pregnant. Or she understands that, but she is taking that risk because she is addicted to smoking cigarettes.  Risk assessments are applied to many things we encounter in our daily lives including life-saving drugs, food additives, cosmetics, household cleaning products, pesticide residues in foods, and countless other environmental agents.   This Tox Topic briefly explains some basics of human health risk assessment.   TEF’s “Is It Safe? Evaluating Chemical Risk” ...

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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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