What is Toxicology

Toxicology has been defined as the science of poisons. It relates to the study of opposing effects of chemicals or physical agents on living organisms. Understanding Toxicology is a continuous process as the science itself is in a continuous state of evolution and development. Toxic agents are toxins and the medical science has made great progress in understanding how they affect the various parts and functioning of the body. The science itself is as old the cave man that evolved poisons for hunting as well as for use against enemies.

Poison has played great part in ancient days and notable victims were Socrates, Cleopatra and many more. The science got a start when a Spanish doctor by name Orifila was able to demonstrate how poisons affect the organs and cause tissue damage. The body has an immune system to act against certain level of toxins, but when affected by high amount it leads to death. In fact, smaller doses in some cases may be beneficial to the body also.

The human body has a built in resistance capacity against foreign substances and that includes some medicines. However, Xenobiotics used in pharmaceuticals has beneficial effects. A major concept of Toxicology is called dose response relationship, which means small doses may be harmless but higher doses may even prove fatal. The effects of poison are very complex influenced by many factors like the substance used dosage etc. Toxic agents are classified into three different forms. They are chemical, biological, and physical. Cyanide is the best example of toxin in chemical class. Snake venom is the biological form and radiation is the physical form.  

Toxicologists study and assess the effects of the various toxic agents. It has been found that the most important factor in the effect of the toxin is the dosage. There are other factors also apart from the form of the toxin. For example a few chemicals, by themselves are toxin while others are not. Even in the latter category a few of them after being absorbed the body may change their nature. Some toxins affect adversely and damage all tissues and cells. they may contact while others may affect specific organs.

Toxicology as a subject is mainly evolved around the effect of toxins on the human body. However, the same substance may have different effect on humans and others. For example antibiotics, non toxic and beneficial to humans are toxic when it comes to micro organisms. Similarly insecticides are no toxic to animals but kill insects. The body stability to absorb substances is the main factor determining the toxicity of the substance. Similarly harmless toxins may have adverse effects on the infants and elderly.