The environment is full of chemicals. However, it is not necessary that all chemicals are toxic as some are toxic chemicals while some are non-toxic in nature. The science that involves the study of toxic chemicals and how they act in the environment is defined as Chemical Toxicology.
Before elaborating on the presence of toxic chemicals in the environment, we must have a basic idea about –
What are Toxic Chemicals?
Toxic Chemicals are defined as substances that possess harmful effects on the environment and severely damage the health of living bodies when these chemicals somehow get inhaled or absorbed. We have already discussed in the beginning that all chemicals are not toxic in nature. But to be more specific, any chemical compound can be toxic or non-toxic according to the extent of its exposure as well as its quantity.
Basically, there is a point called toxicity endpoint and up to this point, the toxicity effect of all substances is almost negligible. This means is not hazardous to health up to a certain level.
For toxic chemicals, it is not wrong to say that toxic chemicals can lead to fatal results when enter the biological system.
There is a huge count of toxic chemicals. Air and Water are considered to be the two most common things essential for survival and so are considered to be the easiest ways by which toxins can enter the body.
So, let us understand each one separately.
Toxic Chemicals in Air
Some of the major toxic chemicals that are hazardous to human health and are present in the atmosphere are:
- Chlorinated solvents
- Ethylene oxide
- Vinyl Chloride
- Polybrominated Biphenyls
- Polybrominated Biphenyls
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls
Toxic Chemicals in Water
Some of the toxic chemicals that exist in water are as follows:
Though we do not come across these chemicals in our daily life directly chemicals are a useful part of our life and we encounter them each and every day in some or another way. As chemicals are considered to be the major constituent of this developing society.
Thus, it is not wrong to say that the usage of chemicals has shown an exponential rise with time.
For example, consider pesticides that serve a major part of the agricultural industry. The contact of pesticides can cause harmful effects to humans that can lead to severe poisoning and even deaths in some critical cases.
We know that any chemical is formed by the combination of several molecules. It is not necessary that each individual chemical will remain in its actual state for a very long period of time in the environment because some of them break down into different molecular components and these components exhibit different properties from that of the actual chemical. Along with that the chemical or its subcomponents can travel through various pathways by getting mixed with other environmental components. The pathways can be air, water, soil, etc.
It is to be noted here that the toxicity of any chemical depends on the toxicity endpoint. In a similar way, children are more prone to have vulnerable effects of toxic chemicals in comparison to adults. This is basically associated with the lower metabolism and less immunity of children along with the level of exposure of a child and an adult to air, water, etc. in accordance with the body weight.
We all know a basic habit that almost all infants or children possess of putting their hands inside their mouth and by doing so they intake various contaminants that are present in the environment. Also, in the growing stage of children, the various body organs are more subject to damage even with small exposure to toxic chemicals.
Health Effects of Chemicals
We have recently discussed that any chemical can cause damage to humans and animals to a high extent. The various health and environmental effects of chemicals are as follows:
- Nervous system disorder
- Reproductive disorder
- Cardiovascular disease
- Respiratory illness
- Skin allergies
The various effects seen on animals are as follows:
- Reproduction issues
- Spine malformations in fishes.
- Eggshell thinning in birds.
Thus, we can say that the presence of chemicals in our environment is for decades and everybody encounters it on daily basis knowingly or unknowingly.