Thousands of chemicals that are used within our environment have been developed for our benefit but unfortunately their use leads to the release of chemical pollutants to the biosphere where they may exert harmful effects on living systems. Environmental Contamination and Toxicology is focused on the study of how these harmful effects may occur and how they can be avoided or minimised. Research careers and professional prospects in this field require highly qualified scientists and managers with a solid background in both biology and chemistry, and familiar with specific areas such as physiology, cell and molecular biology, immunology, pathology, epidemiology and ecology.
Integrated within Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, with hardly distinguishable borders and with strong incidence to each other, four major professional profiles can be distinguished:
- Ecotoxicologists study the toxic effects of chemicals on the environment. Typically, they will be concerned with aspects such as: (a) tracing the movement of pollutants through terrestrial and aquatic food chains; (b) following the metabolism and bioaccumulation of these pollutants in food chains; (c) identifying population changes after exposure to pollutants; particularly genetic changes, such as the development of resistance to pesticides in insects; (d) monitoring the physiological and biochemical responses of organisms to pollutant exposure, which may reflect a toxic effect; and (e) undertaking detailed ecological and toxicological studies of invertebrates and fish in polluted rivers and estuaries.
- Regulatory toxicologists face a battery of questions relating to hazards within the environment, to which the public and politicians alike will expect clear, and certainly informative, answers dealing with legal requirements of marketed products, safe exposure levels for humans and the ecosystems, standard test methods, etc.
- Environmental (human) toxicologists deal with the toxic effects of environmental chemical pollutants on humans. The human environment can be defined as the ambient water, soil, air and food that is consumed. Environmental toxicologists evaluate existing toxicological data and organise new studies to obtain necessary evidences of cause-effect relationships. They must recognise the potential dangers of simultaneous exposure to more than one type of chemical.
- Industrial toxicologists play a vital role in developing effective, and safe, products (pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, pesticides, cosmetics …). They check for any toxic potential of these products for biota, ecosystems and humans.
Aimed to prepare candidates for employability inside but also academia to respond to challenges of EU Environmental Policies, the ECT+ EMJMD Programme provides postgraduate education of excellence in Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, advanced, interdisciplinary training in this field and its associated scientific disciplines, and ability to design, implement and report on an independent research project. As a general rule, associated partners are potential employers of postgraduates formed within the excellence framework of the ECT+ EMJMD Programme.