Toxicology is a unique branch of science in which medicine, chemistry, biology, and pharmacology intersect. While toxicology lab screenings are often ordered by healthcare providers to test for toxins, alcohol, or drugs in a patient’s system, toxicologists also have several other specialties. With its role in several disciplines, toxicology helps communities thrive in many ways — and here’s a closer look at how.
More Than Just Drug Tests: The Comprehensive Nature of Toxicology
According to the Society of Toxicology, this applied science is used primarily to examine “the adverse effects of chemical, physical, or biological agents on living organisms and the ecosystem, including the prevention and amelioration of such adverse effects.” In other words, toxicologists investigate how certain substances affect people, animals, and their environments, plus observe any detrimental effects and explore ways to mitigate those adversities.
Toxicology includes several specific lines of work, such as:
- The development of safer drugs
- Creating safer chemicals
- Identifying risks of substance exposures
- Developing treatments for exposures
- Promoting a safe supply of food and water for communities
The Far-Reaching Impact of Toxicology
Toxicology plays such a critical role in the wellness of society and the environment that in 1978 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services dedicated a branch specifically to it: The National Toxicology Program (NTP). To date, the NTP has evaluated more than 2,800 substances, and frequently releases reports on carcinogens and immunotoxicity, along with the results of other valuable research.
While the original focus of the NTP was to evaluate the cancer risks of a few specific substances, the program’s focus has expanded over the years. The program now evaluates immune system toxicity and developmental and reproductive effects, as Brian Berridge, Associate Director of NTP, told Open Access Government. “As time has gone on” he says, “scientists have realized that not everybody is equally prone to these effects. Individual susceptibility has, therefore, become a much more important part of our work.”
Medical, Forensic, and Environmental Toxicology
Governmental work is only one field for toxicologists, however. Medical toxicologists, for example, work in emergency departments helping patients who have been exposed to high levels of toxins. They also test drugs and treatments, helping to keep the public healthy as new medicines emerge on the market.
In forensic toxicology, professionals lend their services to determine whether substances have played a role in a crime or death. They may also facilitate drug testing in professional settings, sports leagues, and for legal cases. Not only do they perform research, but they also interpret results and work with law enforcement agencies to help stop the spread of drugs throughout communities.
Finally, environmental toxicologists study the ways in which substances — both manmade and natural — impact ecosystems. They might analyze mercury levels in fish, for instance, or monitor microplastic levels in a certain region. Their work helps to uncover toxic trends and gives lawmakers opportunities to intervene and mitigate or prevent environmental damage caused by dangerous substances.
If you need toxicology services for your patients or employees, turn to LifeBrite Labs. We offer drug testing and toxicology screens for medication reconciliation and adherence, workplace screening, and addiction treatment support, helping keep communities safe while ensuring practitioners make informed decisions for their patients. Please schedule a consultation by calling (678) 433-0607 or connecting with us online.
Learn more about LifeBrite