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Encyclopedia > Toxicity


Toxicity is a measure to the degree to which something is toxic or poisonous. The study of poisons is known as toxicology. Toxicity can refer to the effect on a whole organism, such as a human or a bacterium or a plant, or to a substructure, such as a cell (cytotoxicity) or the liver. By extension, the word may be metaphorically used to describe toxic effects on larger and more complex groups, such as the family unit or "society at large". Toxicity is a measure of the degree to which something is toxic or poisonous; the word also has several additional meanings: Look up toxicity, toxic in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... A drunken man in Tampere, Finland. ... The skull and crossbones symbol traditionally used to label a poisonous substance. ... Toxicology (from the Greek words toxicos and logos [1]) is the study of the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms [2]. It is the study of symptoms, mechanisms, treatments and detection of poisoning, especially the poisoning of people. ... A crab is an example of an organism. ... Phyla/Divisions Actinobacteria Aquificae Bacteroidetes/Chlorobi Chlamydiae/Verrucomicrobia Chloroflexi Chrysiogenetes Cyanobacteria Deferribacteres Deinococcus-Thermus Dictyoglomi Fibrobacteres/Acidobacteria Firmicutes Fusobacteria Gemmatimonadetes Nitrospirae Omnibacteria Planctomycetes Proteobacteria Spirochaetes Thermodesulfobacteria Thermomicrobia Thermotogae Bacteria (singular, bacterium) are a major group of living organisms. ... Drawing of the structure of cork as it appeared under the microscope to Robert Hooke from Micrographia which is the origin of the word cell. Cells in culture, stained for keratin (red) and DNA (green). ... The liver is an organ in living beings, including humans. ... In language, a metaphor (from the Greek: metapherin rhetorical trope) is defined as a direct comparison between two or more seemingly unrelated subjects. ...

In the science of toxicology, the subject of such study is the effect of an external substance or condition and its deleterious effects on living things: organisms, organ systems, individual organs, tissues, cells, subcellular units. A central concept of toxicology is that effects are dose-dependent; even water – by itself not toxic – can lead to water intoxication when taken by a human in large enough doses, whereas for even a very toxic substance such as snake venom there is a dose for which there is no toxic effect detectable. Dose can refer to several things: An amount of medication to be taken at one time. ... In medicine, water intoxication (also known as hyperhydration or water poisoning) is a potentially fatal disturbance in brain function that results when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed outside of safe limits by a very rapid intake of water. ... Snakes are cold-blooded and need the sun to help regulate their body temperature. ... It has been suggested that Snake poison be merged into this article or section. ...

The skull and crossbones is a common symbol for toxicity.
The skull and crossbones is a common symbol for toxicity.

Image File history File links Skull_and_crossbones. ... Image File history File links Skull_and_crossbones. ... A skull and crossbones is a symbol consisting of a human skull and two bones crossed together under the skull. ...

Types of toxicity

There are generally three types of toxic entities; chemical, biological, and physical.

  • Chemicals include both inorganic substances such as lead, hydrofluoric acid, and chlorine gas, as well as organic compounds such as ethyl alcohol, most medications, and poisons from living things.
  • Biological toxicity can be more complicated to measure, as the "threshold dose" may be a single organism, as theoretically this one virus, bacterium or worm can reproduce to cause a serious infection. However, in a host with an intact immune system the inherent toxicity of the organism is balanced by the host's ability to fight back; the effective toxicity is then a combination of both parts of the relationship. A similar situation is also present with other types of toxic agents. In particular, toxicity of cancer-causing agents is problematic, since for many such substances it is not certain if there is a minimal effective dose or whether the risk is just too small to see; here too the possibility exists that a single cell transformed into a cancer cell is all it takes to develop the full effect. Mixtures of chemicals are more difficult to assess in terms of toxicity, such as gasoline, cigarette smoke, or industrial waste. Even more complex are situations with more than one type of toxic entity, such as the discharge from a malfunctioning sewage treatment plant, with both chemical and biological agents.
  • Physically toxic entities include things not usually thought of as such by the lay person: direct blows, concussion, sound and vibration, heat and cold, non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation such as infrared and visible light, ionizing non-particulate radiation such as X-rays and gamma rays, and particulate radiation such as alpha rays, beta rays, and cosmic rays.

Toxicity can be measured by the effects on the target (organism, organ, or tissue). Because individuals typically have different levels of response to the same dose of a toxin, a population-level measure of toxicity is often used which relates the probability of an outcome for a given individual in a population. One such measure is the LD50, "LD" standing for "lethal dose", which is a concentration measure for a toxin at which fifty-percent of the members of an exposed population dies from exposure. When such data does not exist, estimates are made by comparison to known similar toxic things, or to similar exposures in similar organisms. Then "safety factors" must be built in to protect against the uncertainties of such comparisons, in order to improve protection against these unknowns. Water and steam are two different forms of the same chemical substance A chemical substance is any material with a definite chemical composition, no matter where it comes from. ... Inorganic chemistry is the branch of chemistry concerned with the properties and reactions of inorganic compounds. ... General Name, Symbol, Number lead, Pb, 82 Chemical series poor metals Group, Period, Block 14, 6, p Appearance bluish white Atomic mass 207. ... Flash point -37. ... General Name, Symbol, Number chlorine, Cl, 17 Chemical series halogens Group, Period, Block 17, 3, p Appearance yellowish green Atomic mass 35. ... Benzene An organic compound is any member of a large class of chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon, with the exception of carbides, carbonates, carbon oxides and elementary carbon. ... Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol, is a flammable, colorless, mildly toxic chemical compound with a distinctive perfume-like odor, and is the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. ... Groups I: dsDNA viruses II: ssDNA viruses III: dsRNA viruses IV: (+)ssRNA viruses V: (-)ssRNA viruses VI: ssRNA-RT viruses VII: dsDNA-RT viruses A virus (Latin, poison) is a microscopic particle that can infect the cells of a biological organism. ... A worm is an elongated soft-bodied invertebrate animal. ... An infection is the detrimental colonization of a host organism by a foreign species. ... The immune system protects the body from infection by pathogenic organisms. ... A sampling of Bacillus anthracis—Anthrax A biological agent is an infectious disease that can be used in bioterrorism or biological warfare. ... Gasoline, also called petrol, is a petroleum-derived liquid mixture consisting mostly of hydrocarbons and enhanced with benzene or iso-octane to increase octane ratings, used as fuel in internal combustion engines. ... The cigarette is the most common method of smoking tobacco. ... Industrial waste is a waste caused by industrial factories or mills. ... Oscillation is the variation, typically in time, of some measure as seen, for example, in a swinging pendulum. ... Electromagnetic radiation can be imagined as a self-propagating transverse oscillating wave of electric and magnetic fields. ... Radiation hazard symbol. ... In the NATO phonetic alphabet, X-ray represents the letter X. An X-ray picture (radiograph) taken by Röntgen An X-ray is a form of electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength approximately in the range of 5 pm to 10 nanometers (corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 PHz... This article is about electromagnetic radiation. ... An alpha particle is deflected by a magnetic field Alpha particles or alpha rays are a form of particle radiation which are highly ionizing and have low penetration. ... Beta particles are high-energy electrons emitted by certain types of radioactive nuclei such as potassium-40. ... Cosmic rays can loosely be defined as energetic particles originating outside of the Earth. ... An LD50 test being administered In toxicology, the LD50 or colloquially semilethal dose of a particular substance is a measure of how much constitutes a lethal dose. ... Factor of safety (FoS), also known as Safety Factor, is a multiplier applied to the calculated maximum load (force, torque, bending moment or a combination) to which a component or assembly will be subjected. ...

Factors influencing toxicity

Toxicity of a substance can be affected by many different factors, such as the pathway of administration (is the toxin applied to the skin, ingested, inhaled, injected), the time of exposure (a brief encounter or long term), the number of exposures (a single dose or multiple doses over time), the physical form of the toxin (solid, liquid, gas), the genetic makeup of an individual, an individual's overall health, and many others. Several of the terms used to describe these factors have been included here.

acute exposure
a single exposure to a toxic substance which may result in severe biological harm or death; acute exposures are usually characterized as lasting no longer than a day.
chronic exposure
continuous exposure to a toxin over an extended period of time, often measured in months or years


"Toxic" and similar came from (from Greek τοξον = "bow (weapon)" and via "poisoned arrow" came to be used for "poison" in scientific language, as the usual Classical Greek word ('ιον) for "poison" would transcribe as "io-", which is not distinctive enough. In some biological names, "toxo-" still means "bow", as in Toxodon = "bow-toothed" from the shape. A bow is ancient weapon that shoots arrows powered by the elasticity of the bow. ... // Arrow poisons are used to poison arrow heads or darts for the purposes of hunting. ... The skull and crossbones symbol traditionally used to label a poisonous substance. ... In biology, binomial nomenclature is the formal method of naming species. ... Toxodon is a genus of mammals, now extinct, that lived in the late Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs in South America. ...

See also

It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Bioactivity. ... Biological warfare, also known as germ warfare, is the use of any pathogen (bacteria, virus or other disease-causing organism) or toxin found in nature, as a weapon of war. ... Proposition 65 is a law in California created to promote clean drinking water and keep toxic substances that cause cancer and birth defects out of consumer products. ... Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy Homeopathy (also spelled homœopathy or homoeopathy) from the Greek words όμοιος, hómoios (similar) and πάθος, páthos (suffering)[1], is a form of alternative medicine that attempts to treat like with like. ... Nephrotoxicity is a poisonous effect of some substances, both toxins and medication, on the kidney. ... Neurotoxicity occurs when the exposure to natural or manmade toxic substances (neurotoxicants) alters the normal activity of the nervous system. ... Ototoxicity is damage of the ear (oto), specifically the cochlea or auditory nerve and sometimes the vestibulum, by a toxin (often medication). ... Paracelsus Paracelsus (born 11 November or 17 December 1493 in Einsiedeln, Switzerland - 24 September 1541) was an alchemist, physician, astrologer, and general occultist. ... Physiologically-based pharmacokinetic modelling (PBPK) is a mathematical modelling technique for human health risk assessment and investigation of toxicity. ... The skull and crossbones symbol traditionally used to label a poisonous substance. ... RTECS, also known as Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances, is a database of toxicity information compiled from the open scientific literature that is available for charge. ... The venom of the black widow spider is a potent latrotoxin. ... The term carcinogen refers to any form of substance, radionuclide or radiation which is an agent in the promotion or direct involvement in the facilitation of cancer or genomic instability due to the disruption or damage of cellular metabolic changes. ... In biology, a mutagen (Latin, literally origin of change) is an agent that changes the genetic information (usually DNA) of an organism and thus increases the number of mutations above the natural background level. ... Excavation of leaking underground storage tank causing soil contamination Soil contamination is the presence of man made chemicals or other alteration to the natural soil environment. ... Teratogenesis is a medical term from the Greek, literally meaning monster making. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Toxicity of Pesticides (3136 words)
Toxicity is usually divided into two types, acute or chronic, based on the number of exposures to a poison and the time it takes for toxic symptoms to develop.
Acute toxicity is due to short-term exposure and happens within a relatively short period of time, whereas chronic exposure is due to repeated or long-term exposure and happens over a longer period.
The commonly used term to describe acute toxicity is LD LD means lethal dose (deadly amount) and the subscript 50 means that the dose was acutely lethal to 50% of the animals to whom the chemical was administered under controlled laboratory conditions.
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