Environmental Toxicology

Jul 24, 2013 admin
Learn about environmental toxins and how to help evaluate potential for harm to humans and other species as well as regulating, understanding and monitoring toxin use.

Toxic agents found in the environment include pesticides, food additives, industrial waste, and metals  as well as chemicals produced by animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. Students in the Environmental Toxicology major learn how toxicants produce adverse effects by understanding both their environmental fates and biological activities. They learn about monitoring concentrations and the distribution and persistence of agents found in water, soil, air and foods. Toxicity testing procedures and exposure assessments are used to help evaluate potential for harm to humans and other species. By understanding the cellular targets and biochemical mechanisms of perturbation by toxicants, toxicologists can better estimate adverse effects. Overall, students learn mechanisms by which toxic agents act, their origin and fate and how toxicologists evaluate the risk of adverse effects and balance them against the benefits of use.

The program

Preparatory courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics are required to provide  fundamental principles which underlie toxicology. Students in the major are expected to understand the environmental fates and biological activities of different classes of toxic substances, and the legislative issues which arise from chemical use. Opportunities are available to develop in-depth understanding in areas of emphasis through selection of electives.


Elective course work in many disciplines can complement the required core courses. Providing a framework for selecting restricted electives, the major offers specializations in

  1. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Chemistry
    Aquatic Toxicology; Ecology; Chemical Fate
  2. Forensic Science and Regulatory Toxicology
    Environmental Policy and Management; Forensic Science; Public Health
  3. Molecular and Biomedical Toxicology
    Biotechnology; Food Toxicology; Medicine; Pharmacology; Veterinary Medicine

The first category includes topics in chemical fate, transport and degradation, as well as ecology, wildlife, and aquatic toxicology. The second category includes forensic science, environmental policy and management, and public health. The third category includes pharmacology, biotechnology, medicine, veterinary medicine, and food toxicology. Students are encouraged to select course work from these specializations and beyond to match their interests

Career options

Our graduates are well versed in chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology and toxicology and are very unique. Typically, our alumni pursue graduate degrees in pharmacology, toxicology, nutrition, food science and environmental chemistry as well as professional degrees in medicine, veterinary medicine, pharmacy and dentistry. They also entertain a wide range of opportunities in the chemical industry, pharmaceutical industry,  biotechnology, and environmental consulting firms, and are highly sought by governmental agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency, Cal-EPA, the California Department of Food & Agriculture and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Following a few examples of career options:

  • Analytical Chemist
  • Biohazard Specialist
  • Consultant
  • Educator
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Environmental Health and Safety
  • Environmental Protection Specialist
  • Epidemiologist
  • Food Toxicologist
  • Forensic Analyst
  • Medical/Pharmacological Researcher
  • Medical Practitioner (doctor, nurse)
  • Pest Control Advisor
  • Pharmacist
  • Product Safety
  • Public Health Manager
  • Public Service
  • Researcher
  • Toxicologist
  • Veterinarian


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