Environmental Poisoning: Presentation and Management

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Environmental poisoning is most commonly associated with chronic long-term exposure to toxins rather than to acute exposure. Such repeated exposure to sublethal doses of compounds and elements presents problems in risk assessment. This is primarily because the data are unavailable to describe relationships between dose and effect at lower levels of exposure to toxins. Bioavailability of toxins also presents a problem because the data on bioavailability are sparse and seldom as high as the default of 100% bioavailability commonly used in risk assessment. Examples are presented of two toxins: arsenic as an elemental anthropogenic and geologic poison and ciguatoxin, a polyether ladder compound, as a toxin produced naturally by dinoflagellates. Bioavailability drives the toxicity of arsenic from contaminated sites, whereas tissue accumulation drives the toxicity of ciguatoxin. Considerable benefit is derived from the harmonization of regulatory processes where there is linkage of health and environmental factors in the derivation of credible risk assessment.

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