Toxicology is the study of the negative effects of chemicals on human systems.
In the study of toxicology scientists not only look at effects but also how to identify those effects and what circumstances lead to the negative effects. They do this by looking at the dosage of the chemicals as well as who took the drug and when the drugs were taken.
Toxicology is not a new science, the first traces of the science date back to early Greek history. Discorides was one of the first people to study the negative effects of plants on human systems based on their toxic properties. Mathieu Orfila is considered to be the father or the modern study of toxicology when he wrote Traite des poisons in 1813. Another important person in the history of toxicology is Jean Stas who studied the negative poisonous effects of nicotine in a murder case.
There are many factors that influence how toxic a chemical is to the body. Some of these factors include the following:
- The dosage or how much of the chemical a person comes in contact with over a period of time.
- The route of exposure - There are three different ways that body systems can be exposed to chemicals:
- The Gender of a person or their age
- The differences between different people's body composition
Part of the process of learning about the negative effects of a chemical is testing the chemical in laboratory tests. One of the most common ways that the toxicology of a substance has been studied throughout history is through the animal experiments. In more recent years, steps have been taken to reduce the number of animal tests being done by using computer modeling. In this method, models are created of the chemicals and proteins and how the two are predicted to interact with one another.
There are different branches in toxicology studies. First there is medical toxicology. This branch of study is conducted by medical practitioners in which the doctors try to eliminate the negative side effects of chemical that are used to treat different health conditions. A person with an MD or DO degree can only practice medical toxicology. Clinical toxicology is closely related, but can be practiced by other health professionals including physician's assistants and nurses. Finally, Computational Toxicology is the branch that develops predictions based on models.