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The toxicology ( ancient Greek τοξικολογία toxikologia , German , toxicology ' ) is the study of the toxins , the poisoning and its treatment. It is an interdisciplinary subject that is mostly attached to pharmacology . Her field of activity overlaps with that of biochemistry , where the molecular basis of poisoning is clarified. Therefore, many chemists and biochemists are also active as toxicologists.

Word origin

The Greek word τοξικον Toxikon comes from τόξον Toxon , German 'the bow' of the archer, with which a (poison) arrow is shot. It originally refers to the arrow poison . The arrowhead was prepared with bacterially contaminated cadaver poison or with toxic plant substances for the purpose of faster and fatal effects . The plant substances used were those that caused local inflammation, brought the heart to a standstill, and paralyzed the muscles or respiration. Toxicology, founded in its modern form by Mathieu Orfila , is the study of the harmful effects of chemical substances on living organisms.

Toxicity of substances

When it comes to the toxicity of a substance, the amount or concentration of the substance in question is usually important. Some substances have a beneficial effect on the body in small amounts, but are dangerous in higher concentrations. All substances are lethal above a certain dose, depending on the type of administration.

“... All things are poison and nothing is without poison; the dose alone makes a thing not a poison ... "

- Paracelsus (1493–1541) : Sudhoff edition, Volume XI, R. Oldenbourg, Munich and Berlin (1928), pp. 123-160: Sieben Defensiones 1537/38. Here: p. 138

Another form of this sentence comes from the Greek physician Eryximachos around 350 BC. Chr.

The presence of a potentially toxic substance in an organism does not necessarily lead to poisoning. However, excessive consumption of any medical drug can cause poisoning. The toxicity of a substance is determined with the toxicity determination. The dose of a certain substance that is fatal to a living being is the lethal dose .

Carcinogenic and gene-mutating substances are an exception to this rule. In theory, one molecule can be sufficient for them to develop their harmful effects. It is therefore controversial whether an effect threshold should be specified for these substances. Another exception to this rule are allergens; here, too, a single molecule is theoretically sufficient to trigger an allergic reaction. The material intolerances (e.g. food or medication), for which the dose / effect principle applies, must be separated from the allergic reactions.

See also


  • Georges Fülgraff: Food toxicology . Verlag Eugen Ulmer GmbH & Co., Stuttgart 1989, ISBN 3-8001-2598-6
  • Franz-Xaver Reichl (Ed.): Pocket Atlas of Toxicology , Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart, New York 1997, ISBN 3-13-108971-7
  • Hans-Werner Vohr (Ed.): Toxicology . Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 2010, ISBN 978-3-527-32319-7 (2 volumes).
  • Karlheinz Lohs (Hrsg.): Fachlexikon Toxikologie . 4th edition. Springer, Berlin a. a. 2009, ISBN 978-3-540-27334-9 .
  • Hans Marquardt, Siegfried Schäfer (ed.): Textbook of toxicology . 2nd Edition. Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-8047-1777-2 .
  • Heinz Nau, Pablo Steinberg, Manfred Kietzmann: Food toxicology - residues and contaminants. Risks and consumer protection . Parey, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-8263-3330-6 .
  • Wolfgang Wirth, Christian Gloxhuber: Toxicology . Teubner, Wiesbaden 1994, ISBN 3-8351-0024-6 .
  • Ernst Lindner: Toxicology of Food . Thieme, Stuttgart / New York 1990, ISBN 3-13-490804-2 .
  • Hartmut Dunkelberg (collaborator): Food toxicology. Ingredients, additives, residues, impurities . Ed .: Georges Fülgraff. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1989, ISBN 3-8001-2598-6 .
  • Mechthild Amberger-Lahrmann, Dietrich Schmähl (Ed.): Poisons. History of toxicology . Springer, Berlin et al. 1988, ISBN 3-540-16292-5 .
  • Louis Lewin: Poisons and Poisonings - Textbook of Toxicology . Karl F. Haug, Heidelberg 1992, ISBN 3-8304-0694-0 (unaltered reprint).

Web links

Wiktionary: Toxicology  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikibooks: Pharmacology and Toxicology  - Learning and Teaching Materials

Individual evidence

  1. Sudhoff edition Volume XI (1928), p. 138 (digitized version)