Medical Conditions Caused by Toxic Substances – Poisoning, Toxicology&Environmental Health Example

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"Medical Conditions Caused by Toxic Substances" is an engrossing example of a paper on poisoning, toxicology, and environmental health. Toxic substances are associated with adverse health effects that occur following exposure to environmental chemicals among other substances. Most toxicologic concerns are related to chronic diseases such as neurological disorders, cancer, osteoporosis and arthritis among other conditions that take several years to develop upon exposure to toxic substances. Nevertheless, substances that contribute to the development of such diseases and their mechanisms are poorly understood. The complexity of some chronic disease processes makes it difficult to associate the onset and development of a case of a disease with a specific toxic substance.   Exposure to some chemicals may not definitely lead to the development of a disease but may result in some effect commonly referred to as a biologic marker.

The development of disease due to exposure to toxic substances is significantly determined by the concentration or the bioavailability of the substance in the body system or a particular tissue (World Health Organization, 2010). The following table identifies toxic substances associated with various medical conditions or diseases. Disease or Condition   Toxic Substance Source and Use of the Toxic Substance Chloracne Caused by exposure to a halogenated aromatic hydrocarbon known Dioxin. Dioxin or chloracnegen results from both occupational and nonoccupational exposures with the most prevalent exposures arising from contaminated industrial waste and contaminated food products (Ju, Zouboulis & Xia, 2009).

This toxin can be found in different products especially in chemical industries, herbicides, food production, and chlorinated compounds. Kidney Damage Lead Lead can be found in different products including paints and fuels. Lead is used in the manufacturing of paints as well as in metal industries. Anophthalmia Chlorodifluoromethane Exposure to the Freon 22 used as an insecticide or fungicide.

Eye contact with this chemical leads to toxic effects on the eyes leading to the development of Anophthalmia (Faroon, 2010). Anencephalus Food additive such as sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate. Found in contaminated foodstuff. Sodium nitrate is used in food industries as food additives aimed at either preserving or stabilizing foodstuff. Reproductive damage Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxic Substances such as chlordane, DDT, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) (Faroon, 2010) It can be found in contaminated fish. Brain damage Exposure to heavy metals such as lead and mercury during a child’ s brain development process Paints especially toy paints and toy gadgets with mercury.

Mercury and lead can be found in contaminated sources of water and water animals such as fish. Sterility Bisphenol A (BPA)   A plastic component found to change genetic component and chemistry thereby leading to sterility. Common in plastic manufacturing industries.   Demasculinization Monocrotophos A form of highly toxic organophosphorus pesticides. Used as a pesticide.         Absorption Routes for Toxic Substances                       Different toxic substances are absorbed into the body systems through different ways including ingestion, inhalation, and direct absorption through the skin. The following table covers the various toxic substances, a brief description of the substances, absorption and potential effect on the human immune systems.   Toxic substance Description of the substance and route of absorption Effect on the Immune system Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) PCBs are lipid-soluble, non-ionized organic compounds which are readily absorbed by diffusion in the GI tract.   Exposure of humans to PCBs occurs through the consumption of fish and other aquatic organisms living in PCB-contaminated environments (Hathaway & Proctor, 2004).

PCBs originate from industrial processes involving the production of plastics.   PCBs have been found to have the potential to cause significant malfunctioning of the immune system (immunotoxicity).

They suppress the function of the immune system leading to increased vulnerability of the body to infectious diseases. Dioxin Dioxin belongs to a family of halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons. The substance is regarded as a class 1 carcinogen. The substance is absorbed through the skin, ingestion, and inhalation. Dioxin exposure occurs through industrial contamination of the environment, workplace exposures, and food products (World Health Organization, 2010).   Dioxin affects the immune system through its effects on skin properties.   The substance leads to skin disease known as chloracne.   DDT ( 1,1,1- Trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane Insecticide; use banned in many temperate-climate countries, but still widely used in the tropics.

The substance is absorbed through inhalation, skin absorption, and ingestion (Faroon, 2010). DDT directly affects the nervous system at high doses and causes paresthesias, tremors, and convulsions. DDT has been found to have the potential to cause significant malfunctioning of the immune system (immunotoxicity). It suppresses the function of the immune system leading to increased vulnerability of the body to infectious diseases. DDE (2,2-bis (p-chlorophenyl)-1, 1-dichloroethylene Results from the metabolism of DDT in humans. The metabolite is stored in fat.

It can be excreted from the body in this form, although its accumulation in the body fats results in toxicity (Faroon, 2010). It suppresses the function of the immune system leading to increased vulnerability of the body to infectious diseases. CCl4 (Carbon tetrachloride) Exists as a colorless liquid. Used in the manufacturing of chlorofluorocarbons, primarily applied as refrigerants, grain fumigant and in fire extinguishers (Faroon, 2010). Absorbed through inhalation, skin absorption and ingestion. It does not affect the immune system directly but causes nervous system depression and severe damage to key organs such as the liver and kidneys.

It has also been found to be carcinogenic. Chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) The use of CFCs leads to its accumulation in the upper atmosphere. These chemicals react with ozone resulting in a reduction of the ozone layer.   These chemicals have been associated with skin cancer through increased UV light. It affects the skin as one of the innate immune defenses against infections through the development of cancer and skin burns.                         Owing to the health risks posed by these toxic substances, public health has completely banned the use of some substances such as DDT, DDE, and PCBs.

However, in areas such as substances are still in use, public health emphasizes the need for minimum exposure. Working environments involving the application of these substances are expected to ensure minimum exposure through the provision of proper protective or safety equipment. In addition, industries involving such toxic substances are expected to ensure proper disposal of the substances to minimize exposure to the surrounding communities.


Faroon, O. (2010). Toxicological profile for DDT/DDD/DDE (Update). New York, NY: DIANE Publishing.

Hathaway, G & Proctor, N. (2004). Proctor and Hughes' chemical hazards of the workplace. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Ju, Q., Zouboulis, C & Xia, L. (2009). Environmental pollution and acne: Chloracne. Dermatoendocrinal, 1(3), 125- 128.

World Health Organization. (2010). Dioxins and their effects on human health. Retrieved from

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