Toxicology is an important branch of scientific study that doctors, veterinarians, chemists and product developers would be lost without. The idea of toxicology has been in existence for thousands of years, and is essential in understanding the inner workings of the human body. In general, the term ‘toxicology’ refers to the study of how chemicals (usually those derived from plants) act upon living tissue (such as the human body). Its primary concern is negative effects. In many ways, toxicology is still considered the ‘study of poisons.’
Scientists in toxicology study different characteristics of poisons, natural chemicals and manmade chemicals to determine their level of danger towards humans. The following characteristics are the main areas of toxicology studies:
When scientists test and examine the effects of toxic chemicals on the body, they almost never do so on living humans – for both ethical and legal reasons. The main avenue of scientific testing is through animals. Chimpanzees, pigs and other animals with close-to-human body systems are typically used in testing.
Toxicology has many different applications. In medicine, toxicology is used to determine the risk factors in new drug products. It is also applied to help develop treatments or antidotes for poisons and other nefarious chemicals. Other times, toxicology is used in the food industry. Toxicologists work in food production to decide if certain chemicals, injected into food products, can have harmful effects on the consumer. Some toxicologists even go to work for the government in military efforts to combat toxin-laden weapons or develop new military-grade poisons. Overall, toxicology is a much-needed area of study that keeps individuals around the world much safer from harm.