Environmental toxicology is a type of hybrid science, studying the chemical effects that toxins can inflict upon an environment and the organisms which exist within it. In the study of environmental toxicology both natural and synthetic sources are studied for the toxic effects they may inflict upon any or all of the constituents in an ecosystem.
The science behind environmental toxicology is very similar to classical toxicology. However, a major difference between the two is that classical toxicology is human-based, whereas environmental toxicology is not. Environmental toxicology aims to protect the entire diversity of organisms which exist within ecosystems and strives to maintain ecosystem functionality.
Another important feature of environmental toxicology is that it manages the effects of chemical agents at the population, community and ecosystem level, not solely the individual level. Since classical toxicology is based upon the study of human subjects for the most part, the level of study is centered on the individual.
Although environmental toxicology may seem to be a rather novel field of study, it does have historical roots which date back to Roman times. There are records of humans noticing that specific compounds can have negative consequences on human health and their environments. For example, in the 1870s it was realized that a pesticide used for crops, which contained arsenic, was the cause of many wildlife deaths. Thus, the realization that DDT is a dangerous insecticide was not the first time in which humans became concerned with issues surrounding environmental health.
Environmental toxicology is a vital field of study because it analyzes the ecological health of our planet so that it is suitable for all life forms. Chemical agents in the environment can have very adverse and long-lasting impacts. Thus, environmental toxicology is critical for maintaining ecological functioning and structure.
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