Some mushrooms are known to be edible whereas some are toxic. Volunteer image author Adege.

Toxicology helps us design processes using safer chemicals. It’s not just us who we have to think of, but all other species on the planet that are affected by anthropogenic processes. By studying how a certain chemical affects us and other species, we can make better decisions. There are a few aspects which we need to consider to learn about the toxic effects of chemicals on all of us.

  • Should a chemical be banned?
  • What is a drug?
  • What is a poison?
  • What is a toxin?
  • What is a dose?
  • What is exposure?
  • Means of administration?
  • Understand the difference between Pharmacology and toxicology: Pharmacology is the scientific study of the origin, nature, chemistry, effects and use of drugs. Toxicology is the science that investigates the adverse effects of chemicals on health.


“The right dose differentiates a poison and a remedy.”  -Paracelsus

To explain this quote by Paracelsus, an Ayurvedic medicine called ‘Makardhwaj’ is a perfect example. Makardhwaj contains mercury. In the right quantities, it proves to be a medicine and not a toxin.

To calculate dose we use the following formula: Dose (in ppm)= (gm of chemical)/(kg of body weight)

Knowing the dose is insufficient and serves only as the starting point. We also need to know the following things:

  • Environmental concentration
  • Properties of toxicant
  • Frequency of exposure
  • Length of exposure
  • Exposure pathway

Response to drugs/toxins varies individually.

Distribution, metabolism and excretion

Distribution, metabolism and excretion describe what happens to the drug or toxin in the body

  • Distribution: Organs that are reacted
  • Metabolism: Chemical transformation – metabolites
  • Excretion: Elimination

Did you know? If you are exposed to a certain amount of amine, you won’t be able to sleep for three days. Also, if you put your hand in Carbon Tetrachloride for 30 min, it can be fatal. Did you also know if you drink 5 litres of milk everyday, you will probably die in a year? Some toxins discriminate with gender, yes they do. You can read about it here.

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