ENVE 652

Introduction to Toxicology for Engineers and Scientists

Who should take ENVE 652?
Engineers and scientists who are interested in human health issues related to chemicals in the environment, including the workplace.

Why take this course?
Engineers and scientists involved in risk evaluation and management of environmental hazards often make decisions with consequences for human health. A current or projected level of a chemical in the environment is compared to an acceptable level found on a list published by a regulator. Between the acceptable level in the regulations (a simple number or two) and the raw scientific research used to determine that level (that only highly specialized scientists can comprehend) there lays a large gap. This gap is filled by "secondary literature," such as toxicology textbooks, other compendiums of toxicology information, the preface to the regulations, and literature reviews that have digested and organized the raw science. This secondary literature is summarized in tools such as IRIS that provide descriptions of the human health risk and qualifications about the numbers generated. The aim of this course is to enable engineers and scientists to navigate that secondary literature, critically read and understand tools such as IRIS, and to be able to explain basic toxicology information to workers and the public.

Description of the course
ENVE 652 is an overview of the science of toxicology - the adverse human health effect of chemicals. The course covers: basic principles; the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination of chemicals; cancer and other effects on cells and organs; types of toxic agents in the environment; use of toxicology in regulations and risk assessment. Toxicology is a biomedical science. Advanced study of toxicology and toxicology research requires a strong background in biochemistry and biology, which engineers and physical scientists usually lack. This course is directed toward responsible decision-making and communications based on available information, rather than research, and assumes only that the students have, some time in the past, studied basic college chemistry and high school biology. We start with a review of some basic chemistry and biology terms to help the student get started. [Catalog description]

Goals of the course
After completing the course, the student should be able to:
  1. Relate exposure dose to cell and organ response for a sample of chemicals found in the environment and industry
  2. Understand and explain to others the meaning of the toxicology portion of material safety data sheets
  3. Critically review toxicology-related articles in popular media and trade magazines,
  4. Understand sources of dose-response information and their use in risk assessment.

When is the course offered?
The course starts in early September, the first assignments are due on September 15th. The course is "asynchronous, with deadlines." There are no face-to-face or electronic meetings, so students can work on the course whenever in the week it is convenient. However we may experiment with some electroinc discussions. There are, however, weekly deadlines. The last assignment is due before December 15th.

Register on-line
All the registration process can be handled on-line and by telephone. Registration should be completed before September 4th.

Distance students who do not come to campus do not pay the Student Life fees. For out-of-state students, the tuition is the same for up to three credits per semester.