Toxicology was founded in the 19th century by Mathieu Orfila, a Spanish toxicologist and chemist. He was the first to describe a systematic correlation between the chemical and biological properties of poisons.

Toxicology is a science and an art. The science is the observational and data-gathering phase. The art of toxicology consists of the utilization of data gathered to predict outcomes of exposure in humans and animals. In most cases, these phases get linked because the facts generated is used to develop extrapolations and hypotheses to explain the adverse effects of chemical agents in situations where there is almost no information available.

Purpose of Toxicology

Toxicology helps make sense of the chemical world and to find answers to pressing scientific questions, from finding hazardous substances in our water to declaring cosmetics and other everyday products as safe. Duties of Toxicologists revolve around collecting samples, researching toxins and communicating their findings.

It is a field of science that helps us understand the harmful effects that chemicals, substances or situations can have on people, animals and the environment. It uses the power of science to predict what, and how chemicals may cause harm. This information is then shared to protect public health.

People’s lives are improved by toxicology by way of critical information and knowledge. This information can be used by agencies and decision-makers to put programs and policies in place to limit exposure to certain substances and thereby preventing or reducing the likelihood that a disease or other adverse health outcome would occur.

The Role of Toxicology

An essential role of toxicology is to identify the effects to prevent irreversible or debilitating diseases. Scientists can evaluate risks posed by the introduction of human-made or human-imposed species into the environment. These species can emerge by way of the disposal of industrial waste, chemical runoff, human excretion or disposal of pharmaceuticals, or the deposition of heavy metals through mining or smelting.

In today’s society, Toxicology has become an essential element in environmental and occupational health. The reason is that many organizations utilize information from it to evaluate and regulate hazards in the workplace. It is invaluable as part of prevention strategies, as it is a source of information on potential dangers. These methods are widely used by industry in product development, to provide useful information in the design of specific molecules or product formulations.

Toxicologists use different methods to help identify potential threats. One such way is the analysis of quantitative structure-activity relationships, where specific substructures in molecules are associated with a particular interaction with biological infrastructures resulting in an adverse reaction. A compound’s reactive tendencies give clues about how it might behave within an organic matrix. This type of technique makes toxicology a predictive and preventative science.

A basic toxicology principle is evaluating clinical effects based on the amount of exposure. It is known as dose-response, which is the total amount of chemical absorbed during an exposure.

There are 16 different branches of toxicology which consist of three principal categories: environmental (pollution, residues, industrial hygiene); economic (medicines, food, food additives, pesticides, dyestuffs, chemicals); and forensic (intoxication, diagnosis, therapy).

Over the years, the definition of toxicology has evolved from the traditional view of “a science of poisons” to a more advanced exercise of “study of the adverse effects of chemical, physical or biological agents on living organisms and the ecosystem”. It includes the prevention and improvement of such adverse effects that was proposed by the Society of Toxicology in 2005, as requested by the National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Toxicologists’ tasks have evolved from the identification of poisons/toxic compounds to developing methodologies for their identification and measurement in biological and environmental media, studying their mechanisms of action. Producing antidotes and predicting their adverse effects and thus assisting in the prevention and improvement of such adverse effects.