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Toxicologist

Uses analytical and scientific techniques to identify toxins such as chemicals, biological substances and radiation and to assess the potential risks and harmful effects posed by them.

Job description

Toxicologists employ specialist scientific knowledge and equipment to study the impact of toxic and radioactive materials on biological systems, including the human body and the environment. They are employed across a wide range of sectors, including industry and manufacturing, medicine, natural sciences, forensics and research, carrying out vital work to minimise risks.

Cosmetics firms employ toxicologists to ensure their products do not harm consumers when inadvertently ingested, or through skin contact.

Environmental toxicologists investigate the impact that toxic materials have on the environment such as air pollution caused by the burning of waste, or the problems pesticides might cause for wildlife. Another area of investigation is the effect chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have on the Earth's stratospheric ozone layer.

Work activities

  • Assessing the potential risks of different concentrations of exposure to toxins and of specific industrial processes.
  • Determining safety measures, standards, and guidelines to prevent chemical and physical hazards in workplaces and to ensure food, air, and drinking water safety.
  • Conducting research on the physiological effects and properties of chemicals.
  • Developing test methodologies for use in toxicological studies.
  • Providing consultation on relevant issues including health maintenance, emergency response, application of regulations and legislation, and identification of toxic substances.
  • Improving industrial safety and public and environmental protection by increasing the awareness of how to respond to exposure to environmental toxins.

Work conditions

Travel: can be a part of the working day depending on the area of specialisation.
Working hours: may require shift work and additional unsocial hours or being on-call.
Location: mainly in large town and cities throughout the county, or at power stations and industrial plants.
Opportunities for self-employment: freelance work is sometimes possible

Typical employers

  • Chemical industry
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Manufacturing
  • Utility companies.

Career development

There are opportunities for specialising or moving into related science fields.

Salaries

Salaries will vary from employer to employer.

Specific degree subjects required

Toxicology, biochemistry, pharmacology and related.

Other relevant degree subjects

  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Environmental sciences
  • Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacy
  • Veterinary.

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification while not required can be an advantage.

Training

Mainly in-house.

Tips for applications

Knowledge of environmental issues may be an advantage.

Skills and qualities

  • Accurate and methodical.
  • Excellent problem solving abilities.
  • Excellent attention to detail and to health and safety issues and procedures.
  • Excellent IT skills.
  • Excellent communication and report writing skills.
  • Good team working skills.