Toxicology is the study of the effects of natural and man-made toxins to humans. Toxicologists are often employed in drug research or forensics, where they detect poisons in the body and relate it to a particular case. Here are some basic facts about the field:
Types of Toxicology
There are three main areas of toxicology namely: forensic, clinical, and environmental. Forensic toxicology specializes in workplace injury and product liability, clinical toxicology focuses on internal medicine, and environmental toxicology studies toxins found in nature. There is also veterinary toxicology, which studies diseases in pets, livestock, and wildlife.
Toxicologists conduct laboratory research and experiments with sample toxins. After their research is completed, they will render reports that summarize the results and will be screened by a peer committee for review. The data gathered from their study will then be published in journals that will be used as reference for further studies, research, and development. In some instances, a toxicologist can also be a medical expert witness to help prove or disprove cases and testify in court.
For someone to be a full-fledged toxicologist, he must first get a Bachelor’s degree in science courses such as biology, genetics, immunology, biochemistry, or pharmacology. Then, he will obtain a degree in the field of toxicology that he wants to specialize in.
There has never been a safer time to drive than now; freeways now have stoplights and all modern cars have fine safety features like multiple air bags. However, every 48 minutes, a person dies not for lack of safety but due to drunk drivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 10,000 people died in 2010 because of alcohol-related crashes, with damages costing more than $51 billion.
Unfortunately, many people think they can still drive safely if they’ve only had a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. In reality though, even a small amount of alcohol can impair a driver’s senses and ultimately cause an accident. In fact, having a blood alcohol level (BAC) of just 0.08% will make you legally drunk in the eyes of the law.
Still, there are many factors that cause a person to register a 0.08% BAC even if they aren’t intoxicated. Taking certain medications will make you register as drunk even if you’d had only one drink. If you haven’t eaten prior to drinking, you’re also more likely to fail a Breathalyzer test. Other factors such as gender, weight, and body fat percentage can also throw off blood alcohol tests.
To help the courts decide on drunk driving cases, forensic toxicologists are often called upon as expert witnesses. They mainly analyze the defendant’s blood alcohol levels and explain to court the implications of the test’s results.
Consulting a reputable toxicology expert witness is necessary to obtaining a professional opinion on causation. Toxicologists have extensive knowledge and experience on the nature and effects of toxins and poisons including chemicals, pharmaceutical products, metals, and alcohol. From testing food products to identifying water quality and determining the safety of cosmetics, they play a huge role in our everyday lives.
As professionals, toxicologists can conduct thorough analysis or scientific investigation and present an unbiased report after research for purposes of litigation. They may also give their testimony in court and assist with responses when the need arises. Through this method, the court will be able to determine whether or not the there is negligence on the part of the defendant.
As efficient as it may be, hair can be quite a challenge in forensic labs, particularly because there are so many factors that affect the success rate of of obtaining a DNA sample. For instance, the chemicals that have been mixed into the hair as a result of dyeing can alter the cuticles, and can even contribute to the degradation of hair DNA.
An efficient forensic toxicologist, like one from Environmental Diseases, works with many body samples like hair, skin, blood, and other bodily fluids so as to render an accurate opinion on the diseases, poisons, drug use or other medical conditions. These experts are often called upon by courts to stand as witnesses for criminal cases.