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Environmental Toxicology

Toxicology is the study of the toxic effects of chemical substances on living organisms. It involves the action of toxin, their serious effects, the symptoms and treatments of poisoning, detection of the amount of substance etc.

The toxicity of a chemical depends on its dose which shows the amount of substance which should be in prescribed limit. The dose and its effects on the organism are of great significance in toxicology. This study is done for various fields like chemical, food, medical, forensic, environmental etc.
Environmental toxicology involves the studying of harmful sources, transformations, and harmful effects of both natural and synthetic chemicals on the environment. The environmental toxicology measures the effect on the living organism and the ecosystem.


Environmental Toxins

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  1. The environmental toxins are presented in our surrounding air, drinking water, our food, our surrounding atmosphere etc.
  2. These toxins are easily entered through food in our body. The toxins present in air can easily absorbed through skin and then easily enter in our body and absorb by connective and nervous tissues, glands, muscles, and bones etc. Thus they can be adversely affected human body.
  3. The toxins are present in pollutants which are unstable and breaks in free radicals. These radicals can damage the cellular DNA, causes for the diseases like cancer, asthma, psoriasis, disorders, headaches, hyperactivity in children, mental retardation, growth disorder etc.
  4. The toxins amount can be measured by various techniques like bio-resonance which measures the presence and state of toxins, allergens, viruses etc.

Hazardous Chemicals

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The environmental toxins includes very hazardous chemical that is circulating in our environment. These hazardous chemicals are very harmful for living organism as they increase the environmental pollution. Some of hazardous chemicals are described below.

1. PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls)

This is a type of industrial organic chemical. This is an odorless aromatic solids or oily liquids. They are used as hydraulic fluid, adhesives, pesticide, plasticizers, dusting agents, inks, and lubricants etc. Farm-raised salmon are the major source of the polychlorinated biphenyls.

These can be cause of cancer and impaired fetal brain development. The use of polychlorinated biphenyls containing water above its maximum contaminant level causes the skin changes, immune disorder, nervous system deficiencies etc.

2. Pesticides

These are the mixture of chemicals or substances which are used to destroy and control the unwanted species of the plants which are the cause of crop damaging, to kill the mosquitoes which are the cause of various disease of human being like malaria, plague, and yellow fever etc, for transporting the food stuff and their safe storage in grocery stores from insects especially for grain, industrial process etc. These can be organic or inorganic or bio pesticides.

For example, insecticides like organo chlorine (DDT) or organo phosphate are used to control the insects, fungicides and algaecides are used for destroying the fungi and algae respectively. The carcinogenic is the combination of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides of 60%, 90% and 30% respectively. The major source of pesticides are food stuff like fruits, vegetables, meats, bug sprays etc.


As pesticides are used for different concerns but it produces very harmful effect on environment. When the pesticides are sprayed for destroying the insects and unwanted species etc then the most of part of pesticides is spread in air, soil, water that causes serious diseases. They are main cause of some serious diseases like cancer, parkinson, miscarriage, nervous system damage, blocking the absorption system of food nutrients etc.

3. Mould and other Fungal Toxins

  • Moulds are the microscopic organism or fungi that live on plants or animals. They need only enough atmosphere of moisture to grow.
  • The moulds produce in the hyphae which is a multicellular filament. They are the main cause of allergic reaction and biodegradation of food stuff.
  • Some common moulds are acremonium, cladosporium, mucor, penicillium, rhizopus etc.
  • The moulds are used in food production process like for making the sujei, scarification process, for preparing the soy sause, soybean paste, rhizopus for cheese products, drugs manufacturing process etc.
  • The moulds can easily found in humid area, basement area, some storage departments, drainage system, in kitchen near sink or wash basins etc.
  • The mycotoxin is a toxic mould and grows on feedstuffs. The ergot mould grows on grain and produces mycotoxins before harvest.
  • Most of mycotoxins are produced during storage process and reduce productivity.
  • A small amount of mycotoxin (which is a type of fungal toxins) can cause a range of health problems and various types of diseases like asthma, diabetes, cell malignancy, chronic cough, multiple sclerosis and heart attack etc.
Contaminated building floor and walls, food products like peanuts and wheat or corn and alcoholic beverages are the major sources of mould and fungal toxins.

4. Phthalates

These are plasticizing and softening chemicals mainly used in consumer products containing PVC (polyvinyl chloride). These are found in vinyl flooring and shower curtains, toys, nail polish, ground water of rivers and ponds, perfumes, medical devices, plastic bottles and packing and manufacturing process of food containers, food material like cakes, fats, milk, meat, fish etc, chemical content of industrial pollution etc.


Some serious health problems are related to the environmental exposure of phthalates which are asthma, kidney and liver problems, reproductive problems in male offspring, hypospadias, genetic problems, endocrine system damage etc.

5. VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds)

  • The volatile organic compounds are the major factor to ozone as an air pollutant.
  • Volatile organic compounds are human-made chemicals with low boiling point that include various chemicals and emit in the form of gases from certain solids or liquids.
  • Some volatile organic compounds have short- while some have long-term adverse health effects.
  • Some gases like propane, benzene etc are also behave as volatile organic compounds. Various organic chemicals are used for household purpose and in household products.
  • The concentrations of VOCs are generally higher in indoors than outdoors.
  • The paints, varnishes, fuels and waxes all contain organic chemicals which release some degree of the organic compounds.
  • The main source of Volatile Organic Compounds is paints, air fresheners, strippers, pesticides, lacquers, cleaning material, building and furnishings material, office equipment like copiers, printers, correction fluids, carbon less copy paper, material of graphics and craft like glues, adhesives, permanent markers, and photographic solutions etc.
  • They are also produced in the manufacturing process of paints, petroleum products, medical products, and refrigerants.
  • The main risk factors are cancer, irritation in eye and respiratory system, headaches, skin infections, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory disorder etc.

6. Dioxins

The 95% of dioxins comes from the animal fats. The dioxins consist of polychlorodibenzo-para-dioxins (PCDDs) and the polychlorodibenzofurans (PCDFs). They are white solids with high melting point. Both are released in the industrial process. These are mainly formed in the combustion processes of municipal waste incineration, from the metallurgical industries, and burning of fuels like coal, oil etc. The dioxins are also present in ecosystem in soils, sediments, etc and contaminate in the food like dairy products, meat, fish etc. They are bound with sediments and other organic substances in the soil and present in the air with the fly ash particles and soot.

The excess exposure also causes of some disorder like organs of reproduction developmental disorders, cancer, liver damage, and skin and acne disease like chloracne, rashes, discoloration, excessive body hair etc.

7. Asbestos

  1. These are a kind of silicates material which have good property of heat, chemical and electrical resistance power and absorption. So it is mainly used for electrical insulation.
  2. Some commonly used asbestos are amphibole, serpentine and asbestosis which is a type of pneumoconiosis.
  3. Due to high flexibility Mg3(Si2O5)(OH)4 (serpentine) is used to spin and spun and woven with fabric. Amosite is brown amphibole asbestos with chemical formula Fe7Si8O22(OH)2 used as thermal insulator.
  4. The main source of asbestos is insulation process of floors, ceilings, pipes of water and heated ducts etc. It releases the fiber in the atmosphere when it becomes old and crumbly.
  5. These fibers can damage the tissues, asbestosis (lung tissue disorder), anemia, lungs problems and causes of mesothelioma cancer.

8. Heavy Metals

  • These includes the metals like arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, mercury, and lead.
  • These metals present around the environment and can easily absorb in soft tissues of the body.
  • These are absorbed by the body in the form of drinking water, non-vegetarian food like fish, vaccines, pesticides, wood, antiperspirant, building construction ingredients, amalgams, and factories producing or using chlorine etc.
  • Thus the contamination of heavy metal in body is the cause of neurological disorders, vomiting, cancer, disorder in the red and white blood cells, heart attack, headaches, Alzheimer etc.

9. Chloroform

  • This is a trichloro methane, sweet smelling, dense, colorless liquid which is mainly used in hospitals for getting the unconsciousness state of patient and as anesthetic.
  • It is a chemical with pleasant odor and sweet taste.
  • It is also used as a solvent to form the other chemicals in laboratory.
  • It is present in chlorinated water, air, and also in some food stuff.
  • The excess amount is the cause of cancer, reproductive damage, and defect in birth, dizziness, fatigue, headache, damage of liver and kidney etc.

10. Chlorine

  • This is pale yellow green colored toxic gas and one of the most used chemical and a strong oxidizing agent.
  • It is highly flammable in nature. It is found in household cleaners, drinking water, surrounding air near an industry like paper plant where chlorine is used in industrial processes.
  • It is mainly used in water purification process as disinfectants and in bleach.
  • The toxicity of chlorine is mainly due to its strong oxidizing power.
  • The absorption of chlorine in the body causes the serious and harmful effects.
  • It can be the reason of disease like respiratory system irritation, throat problem, coughing, irritation in eye and skin, breathing problems, narrowing of the bronchi, wheezing, discoloration of the skin, contamination of fluid and pain in the lungs, burning of eye and skin, lung collapse, and asthma (reactive airways dysfunction syndrome) etc.
  • The chlorofluorocarbons which are the chlorine containing compounds are the main cause for ozone depletion.

Precautions from environmental toxins

The environmental toxins are very harmful so their exposure in atmosphere must be avoided. But due to the advance technologies and industrial processes, it is impossible to avoid their exposure.

Some precautions can be taken for the safety from environmental toxins which are given as below.
  1. Organic field production and wide range of organic foods should be take in for use.
  2. The high-quality purified fish or cod liver oil should be used rather than contaminated with PCBs and mercury fish.
  3. Try to avoid processed foods and artificial food additives as they are made with harmful chemicals.
  4. The natural cleaning products are used in home.
Like the natural brands of toiletries, shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics and do not use artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners as they pollute the air and can easily absorbed by human body.
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