Wednesday, 24th April 2019


Toxicology is the study of how harmful effects could occur from toxins such as chemicals, biological substances and radiation, and how they pose a danger to humans, animals and to the environment. Studying toxicology involves assessing potential risks of chemical substances and discovering how to prevent and minimalize any danger.

A toxicologist is involved in the study of the potential dangers of harmful toxins and chemical substances on living organisms and the environment. They study the relationship between humans’ and animals’ exposure to harmful chemicals, their potential effects and the “mechanisms of action, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of intoxications” (UK Register of Toxicologists).

Toxicologists can work in a variety of different areas, including the following:

  • Industry – includes working in pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food areas in product development
  • Regulation – working for authorities in pharmaceutical, agrochemical, food, and chemical industries
  • Academia –working in education and research fields
  • Medicine – working in specialist hospitals and research units testing drugs and chemicals
  • Forensics – working in the area of drugs and poisons helping with crime and legal cases
  • Occupational – working with organisations monitoring the safety and hazards of workplaces
  • Ecotoxicology – working in hazard assessment for the government or other organisations
  • Environment – working with companies and charities helping to protect the environment and identify chemical damage

Different branches of work will entail different tasks but, generally, the kind of work that toxicologists do will be similar across the profession. For example, they all invariably work in a laboratory environment, conducting trials and using specialist equipment.

Typical tasks of all toxicologists will include:

  • Planning and conducting laboratory experiments
  • Separating and examining toxic substances, investigating harmful properties
  • Testing the toxicity of a product or chemical
  • Supervising trials or experiments, assessing the effects of substances on living organisms
  • Conducting risk analyses and designing safety measures
  • Recording data and making predictions
  • Writing research papers and reports
  • Giving evidence in courts in forensic cases
  • Creating an assessment of the prevention techniques

Toxicologists will be required to apply their identification, analysis and predictions to their relevant area of work. Clinical toxicologists will work in hospitals to determine the effects of toxic substances on the human body, assessing the damage and identifying the toxin. For this they may work closely with pathologists, immunologists and other clinical scientists.

Toxicologists working in industry may focus more on risk assessment when developing new pharmaceuticals or industrial chemical products, testing the safety of the products for the environment in general.