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  • Introduction

  • Workplaces, Exposures, and Standards

    • The Nature of the Work Force

    • Determinants of Dose

    • Occupational Exposure Limits

  • Occupational Diseases

    • Routes of Exposure

    • Agents Associated With Diseases

    • Occupational Respiratory Diseases

    • Other Occupational Diseases

  • Toxicological Evaluation of Occupational Agents

    • Evaluation of Occupational Risks

      • Establishing Causality

      • In Vitro Assays

      • Animal Toxicology Studies

      • Human Challenge Studies

      • Case Reports

      • Epidemiology Studies

    • Animal Toxicology Testing for Establishing Acceptable Levels of Exposure

    • Worker Health Surveillance

    • Linkage of Animal Studies and Epidemiological Studies

  • Exposure Monitoring

    • Environmental Monitoring for Exposure Assessment

    • Biological Monitoring for Exposure Assessment

  • Conclusion


The work environment has played a significant role in the occurrence of adverse human health effects due to chemical and biological hazards for centuries. Early writings by Ulrich Ellenbog (1435–1499), Agricola (1494–1555), and Paracelsus (1492–1541) revealed the toxic nature of exposures in mining, smelting, and metallurgy. A systematic treatise by Ramazzini (1633–1714) described the hazards as they applied to miners, chemists, metal workers, tanners, pharmacists, grain sifters, stonecutters, sewage workers, and even corpse bearers. Legislation to protect worker health began in England with the Factory Act of 1883, which established a factory inspectorate and limited child laborers nine to 13 years old to a 48-hour workweek, and 14 to 18 years olds to a 68-hour workweek. Today we continue to be concerned with occupational health and safety in a wide variety of work environments. Although occupational settings in developed countries are safer now than in the past, the levels of risk deemed acceptable have decreased while the recognition of the causal link of exposures to chronic diseases or diseases with long latencies has increased. As new hazards arise with the emergence of new technologies, we must be prepared to assess the risks and protect the health of workers. With increased globalization, there exists a responsibility to extend health protection to workers in developing nations who too often bear the burden of high exposures to occupational toxicants.

Occupational toxicology is the application of the principles and methodology of toxicology to understanding and managing chemical and biological hazards encountered at work. The objective of the occupational toxicologist is to prevent adverse health effects in workers that arise from exposures in their work environment. Because nonoccupational exposures can act as confounders or can increase the susceptibility of individual workers, occupational toxicologists must evaluate the entire spectrum of exposures experienced by the work force under consideration. Occupational toxicology is a discipline that draws on industrial hygiene, epidemiology, occupational medicine, and regulatory toxicology. The occupational toxicologist must have an intimate knowledge of the work environment and be able to recognize and prioritize exposure hazards. Because the work environment can present exposures to complex mixtures, the occupational toxicologist must also recognize those that are particularly hazardous when occurring in combination.

It is often difficult to establish a causal link between a worker's illness and job. First, the clinical expressions of occupationally induced diseases are often indistinguishable from those arising from ...

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