Needed: Information on working as a toxicologist

Lawrence Segal am879 at FreeNet.Carleton.CA
Mon Jul 3 18:45:45 EST 1995

Anne Lilie (Anne.Lilie at extern.uni-ulm.de) writes:
> Hello!
> I am interested in studying toxicology or eco-toxicology.
> If I graduate with a Dr. degree, what would my daily work be as 
> toxicologist (spelling?) or eco-toxicologist?

Depends where you are employed.  If at University, probably doing research
and teaching.  If in Industry, most likely research and regulatory
compliance work.  If in government, most likely regulatory evaluation of
data, risk assessment, and/or research.

> Can a eco-toxicologist work as a toxicologist, and vice versa? 

Not usually.  They often have somewhat different backgrounds. 
Ecotoxicologists most often work in aquatic biology and are often involved
with the assessment of pollutants on aquatic ecosystems.  Others are
involved in assessing adverse impacts on terrestrial wildlife, especially

> Is there a big difference between those two fields of study?

Well, depends what you mean by "big".  Both are biological scientists. 
The ecotoxicologists focus more on effects on natural ecosystems or their
components, while toxicologists focus more on human health hazard and risk

> How is the jobmarket in this field (in Europe: mainly Germany, France,
> Spain)
> and Northamerica (Canada)?

The job market in Canada is poor at present.  We do not have much of a
market for toxicologists in the private sector.  Most of ours work in
either academia or government, and both those sectors are undergoing
large-scale cutbacks at the moment.  In fact, I just read in the newspaper
today that a large component of the Canadian government's aquatic
toxicology research at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters (Burlington) and
the Freshwater Institute (Winnipeg) is scheduled to be chopped in the next
2 years.

> Do Hospitals have toxicologists? If yes what do they do?

Yes they do, but not too many in Canada.  I suspect they are more involved
in forensic toxicology - looking at drug residues in tissues etc...

> Or does one have to be a Dr.med. who is specialized in toxicology? > 

In Canada, it's common for a toxicologist to have a B.Sc in a life science
discipline like Biology, Physiology or Biochemistry, supplemented by a
M.Sc. and/or Ph.D. in Toxicology.  Most intermediate or senior jobs
require at least a M.Sc or Ph.D.

> Are a lot of toxin-tests still performed on animals? 

Yes - most bioassays are still performed on laboratory animals (usually
rats, mice, rabbits).

> Which have been replaced, and which are still done on animals?

There's considerable work being done on in vitro tests to replace the
Draize eye irritation test.  The standard acute LD50 test has more or less
been replaced by a modified protocol called the "fixed dose method" which
reduces the number of animals as compared with the old LD50 test.  Another
alternative method is called the "up and down method".  Most mutagenicity
tests are now performed in cultured mammalian, yeast or bacterial cells,
although some are still performed using animals.

> Does eco-toxicology also require tests on animals? If yes, which? 

Yes - usually fish, birds, also algae, daphnia. 

Lawrence Segal
Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA

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