Introduction to Public Health Issues in OSH

Introduction to Public Health Issues in OSH

Toxicology is the science of poisons. Friis (2006) states that toxicology is a cornerstone of environmental health, and he points out that it overlaps the disciplines of pharmacology, pathology, and even epidemiology. Liebler (2006) notes that the poisons of greatest interest to those in public health today include environmental and workplace pollutants including second-hand tobacco smoke. Toxicology is concerned not only with identifying and classifying chemicals that act as toxins but also with understanding human and animal dose-response mechanisms for chemicals, including chemicals in drugs and food.

The study of toxins and particularly their effects on humans and animals has been going on for centuries, constantly evolving into the science it has become in recent years. Looking back into the history of occupational health, we can note that some of the observations made by Paracelsus, a sixteenth-century physician who is considered one of the very first toxicologists, concerned environmental pollutants as a possible cause of several forms of cancer. Today, through extensive research, it has been proven that some natural and manmade poisons can indeed cause undesirable effects such as cancer in living organisms. Liebler (2006) believes that the field of toxicology has had two major goals over the last half-century: assessing the effects of environmental pollutants on health and determining the levels at which drugs and other chemicals
become toxic to humans and animals, or to put it another way, ensuring drug and chemical safety. The goal of chemical safety is, of course, important in the prevention of workplace illness, disease, and death.


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