Toxicology- What is it?

What is toxicology?

Note: If you’re a student looking to write a paper regarding the field of toxicology, I would suggest that you visit the Society of Toxicology’s website at for educational materials and information. Thanks for visiting our site!

Toxicology and Occupational ToxicologyToxicology is the study of the adverse effects of xenobiotics, which basically are foreign substances in the body.  Professionals that study and perform toxicology-related work are called toxicologists, however, their specific job titles may vary.  Toxicologists are scientists that study the health effects of exposure to substances and the mechanisms associated with exposure to those substances.  A toxicology professional may work for industry (such as a pharmaceutical company, or chemical company), the government, or colleges and universities.

Toxicology specialties

Some examples of the specialties of toxicology include:

Occupational toxicology:  Occupational toxicology professionals may establish occupational exposure limits (OEL)s, acceptable daily exposure (ADE)s, permitted daily exposures (PDE)s, determine potential adverse health effects, and author safety data sheets.  In addition, they may use their knowledge of toxicology to partner with industrial hygiene professionals to aid in the prevention of occupational exposures to active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), or chemical substances.

Environmental toxicology: Environmental toxicology professionals study how chemical pollution effects people.   They typically work for an environmental consulting firm, a regulatory agency, or other governmental agency.

Pharmaceutical toxicology: Pharmaceutical toxicology professionals determine the efficacy, the mechanism of actions, and the potential adverse health effects of the active pharmaceutical ingredients being produced.

Forensic toxicology:  Forensic toxicology professionals establish the cause of death or identify clues that can solve a crime.

What does it take to become a toxicologist in the pharmaceutical industry?

According to data collected in 2021, approximately 41% of all drugs manufactured are considered highly potent (OELs less than 10 μg/m3). In addition, a wide variety of pharmaceutical products are manufactured daily, and there is always a significant amount of drug research and development occurring as well.  Therefore, occupational toxicologists play a significant role in the field of toxicology.

A toxicology professional must be multi-talented and use skills from a variety of sciences.  Toxicologists may have a background of chemistry, biology, and related fields. Occupational toxicology professionals typically enter the field with advanced degrees is a related scientific field.

In the pharmaceutical industry, occupational toxicology professionals are faced with the unique challenge of preventing occupational exposure to potent compounds.  Potent compounds may pose hazards to employees and thus toxicologists must work to prevent over-exposure to these substances.  Occupational toxicologists must conduct risk assessments for compounds early in development and place compounds in potent compound categorization or control banding schemes. Toxicologists must also develop occupational exposure limits and participate in potent compound safety training in order to prevent over-exposure to potent compounds.

Occupational toxicologists may use a variety of primary and secondary literature sources to classify compounds into the control banding scheme.  Control banding is a method used to assess the hazards of chemicals and manage exposures to these chemicals.  It is a process that matches a control measure to a band of hazards or exposures.  Occupational toxicologists also perform literature reviews and prepare supporting documentation of levels of excipients and residual solvents for acceptance by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

Occupational toxicologists in the pharmaceutical industry perform reproductive hazard evaluations, in which the toxicologist conducts a review of the reproductive hazards of the workplace and provide the client with a detailed report discussing potential hazards and potential steps to prevent exposure to these hazards.

Conclusion: Toxicologists in the Pharmaceutical industry

Occupational toxicologists in the pharmaceutical industry work to prevent exposure to potent compounds by providing categorization of compounds and by setting occupational exposure limits.  The role of the occupational toxicologist in preventing exposure to potent compounds is imperative for the health of the employees and the productivity of the company.


About Dean Calhoun

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Dean is the President and CEO of Affygility Solutions. Affygility Solutions provides environmental, health and safety software, potent compound safety, industrial hygiene, containment validation services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industry. "Dean's Google+ Profile"

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  1. […] limited data sources or only “free” data sources, thus missing important toxicology […]

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