23 April, 2012

A-Z Blogging Challenge: Toxicology

By France-biotech, CC-BY-SA-3.0. SOURCE.
Toxicology is the study of the effects, detection, and treatment of poisons.

The field involves chemistry, biology, pathology, pharmacology, physiology, medicine, and many other fields, and is divided into observational studies (effects of substances), mechanistic studies (explaining how the effects occur), risk assessment (the probability that exposure will cause adverse effects), regulatory toxicology (whether there's too much risk in allowing people to be exposed to a substance), clinical toxicology (tries to determine whether effects are caused by a certain chemical), and forensic toxicology (evaluation and testimony in legal situations).

There are three types of toxic substances: toxicants (anything that causes adverse biological effects), toxins (proteins created by living organisms that have immediate effects), and poisons (toxicants that cause death or illness in a short amount of time). Toxic substances can be systemic (they affect multiple organs) or limited to certain sites. Xenobiotics are substances that enter the body (from the Greek word xeno, or "foreigner").

There are four kinds of reactions: additivity reactions (two or more chemicals have the same affect as they would individually, just simultaneously), antagonism (one chemical reduces the effect of another), potentiation (a chemical causes another to become more toxic), and synergism (two chemicals multiply each other and create a greater response). Toxicokinetics is the movement of a chemical through the body, and toxicodynamics is how it interacts with the body it's in.

An example of a DNA adduct, by TimVickers.
Public domain image. SOURCE.
Notable Toxicologist:

William Baird

William Baird is a professor at the EMT and Biochemistry and Biophysics Department at Oregon State University, who received a Ph.D. from the McArdle Laboratory of Cancer Research. His research group focuses on how different chemicals can cause cancer, including the environmental pollutants polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). The research also includes how enzymes activate and detoxify PAH, how PAH binds to DNA (forming "adducts", or DNA bound to a carcinogen) and how the structure of chromatin (proteins and DNA in the nucleus of the cell) and DNA sequence affect how adducts form.


Emily Monosson (Contributing Author); NLM (Content Source); Sidney Draggan (Topic Editor) "Toxicology". In: Encyclopedia of Earth. Eds. Cutler J. Cleveland (Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment). [First published in the Encyclopedia of Earth November 4, 2006; Last revised Date September 16, 2011; Retrieved March 29, 2012



Do you think people will ever figure out how to manufacture things with fewer toxins?

-----The Golden Eagle


Trisha said...

I certainly learned a lot about toxicology that I did not know in here! Thanks for sharing your knowledge here :)

Simon Kewin said...

Fascinating as ever. I'm hugely impressed with the scope of your posts.

Jaye Robin Brown said...

I hope people will learn. But unfortunately, I imagine there's a high demand for people to be in this particular field of science.

Old Kitty said...

Oh we should hope so (in answer to your queston)! But there was this recent news about this poor woman who bought a beaded necklace off ebay and of course the "beads" were these poisonous seeds of some toxic plant and she nearly died by just wearing the necklace round her neck! Yikes! Take care

....Petty Witter said...

Another great post, I so hope that man will eventually learn to produce without so many toxins.

Charles Gramlich said...

I talk a lot about this in my psychopharmacology class.

Pat Hatt said...

There always seems to be a bad to everything, not sure we'll ever figure it out, as when we get rid of one another just comes along it seems.

David P. King said...

Such an awesome topic! I have such an expert in an up-coming novel. Thanks for the timely resource! :)

Flying high in the sky.... said...

too good!! awesome... very very interesting and informative!

Sarah Allen said...

Ooh, maybe I want to write a murder mystery involving poison at some point...

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Inger said...

My T is for Troll and reading your post, I'm so amazed at how far we have come in the past 150 years from a time when people thought trolls lived in the forest to this.

S. L. Hennessy said...

I always kind of love in detective shows when they're constantly sending things down to "toxicology" without ever really showing what goes on down there. Glad you can clear it up for us!!

Jen Chandler said...

Impressive post! I feel like I've just been in a very interesting lecture :D

I do believe that people CAN manufacture things without so many toxic effects. Unfortunately, to do so takes more time and more money than most companies (and governments) care to spend. So they use the cheap and easy way out.


Anonymous said...

Tell you what, I'll get drunk and then we can talk toxicology.

M Pax said...

What a fascinating field. It's like a merger of chemistry and biology.

Andrew Leon said...

And then there are those people that like to go out and just taste mushrooms to see how toxic they are. Crazy!

Jay Noel said...

Didn't Britney Spears sing about this???

Carrie Butler said...

Interesting stuff! Thanks, Eagle. :D

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Toxicology studies that involve feeding rats massive amounts of ketchup have always puzzled me.

mshatch said...

I don't know the answer but I certainly hope so. In fact, I'd be disappointed if we didn't!

Stephanie said...

I feel smarter already! And this is why I love visiting blogs...I never have any idea what to expect. Interesting post!

anthony stemke said...

I would say yes. Only a little more than a century ago people burned wood to heat their homes, use draught animals and horses for industry and transportation.
Your posts are so interesting and educative, thank you.

Rusty Webb said...

Long term, I think the answer to your question is yes. In the short term, I think we might still have a few monumental mistakes left in us before we get the whole thing figured out.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Remember when they found out that the red dye they were using in M&Ms was toxic? And then M&Ms didn't have the color red for a few years? Yeah... I don't know why this post made me think of that.

Anthony said...

Great post...I do have to wonder what you will do for "z" :-)

Lynda R Young said...

Another fascinating post. This is another branch of science that for me is interesting at a distance ;)

the writing pad said...

Brill insight into toxicology - incidentally, there are actually 4 types of toxic substances - the 3 mentioned plus my cooking :-)
Seriously, great post, as always - thanks for the info!

The Golden Eagle said...

Trisha: Glad you learned something!

You're welcome. :)

Simon: Thank you.

Jaye: Sadly, I agree.

Old Kitty: Wow. I wonder what tipped her off they were poisonous--she lived through the incident, right?

Petty Witter: Same here!

Charles: Psychopharmacology. I've never heard of that field before, but it sounds like it would be interesting to study!

Pat: Yeah, it does seem that way.

David: You're very welcome! :)

Flying high: Thank you!

Sarah: That would be interesting. There are definitely a lot of possibilities when it comes to poisoning people to death.

(It just occurred to me how strange that might sound to a non-writer. LOL.)

Inger: People certainly have!

S. L.: You do have to wonder sometimes what the people they don't show are doing sometimes; the protagonists just order reports and facts, but someone has to dredge them up.

Jen: Thanks! :)

I think you're right. They follow the path of least resistance, at the cost of the public's health.

Joshua: Um . . . ingesting--what some would call--toxicants to talk about toxicology? :P

M: It is!

Andrew: Blech. I'm never picking wild mushrooms, no matter how similar they are to the ones in the store.

The Golden Eagle said...

Jay: Britney Spears? I'm not sure--hang on. *Googles Britney Spears toxicology*


. . . well, I guess that's close enough, right? LOL.

Carrie: You're welcome!

Alex: I've never heard of that study before. They really fed rats ketchup? Strange experiment.

Mshatch: Same here.

Stephanie: It's a lot of fun to see what people are talking about on their blogs, over a range of interests. :)

Thank you!

Anthony: Good point. We're making progress--even if it feels slow relative to a single generation.

Anytime. I'm glad you're enjoying them!

Rusty: Agreed.

Peggy: I never heard that. It surprises me it would take until after the candy was released to find out the substance was toxic, however!

Well, maybe it's not that much of a surprise. :/

Anthony: Thanks!

You'll just have to wait and see. ;)

Lynda: LOL. I think so, too; I'd probably get paranoid if I studied toxicology for too long.

The writing pad: Thanks. :)

You're welcome for it!

Li said...

Have to admit, I'm fascinated by the subject of toxins and poisons, especially the ones like curare and botulin for which we've found medical uses.

The Golden Eagle said...

Li: A lot of poisons seem to have helpful effects, at least in very small quantities.