Ecotoxicology: Effects of Pollutants on the Natural Environment, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover


Effects of Pollutants on the Natural Environment, 1st Edition

By Colin Walker

CRC Press

233 pages | 40 B/W Illus.

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Chemical Warfare in Nature

Pesticides and other industrial chemicals are at the root of many pollution problems. In view of the toxic effects of industrial chemicals found in the water, soil, and air, Ecotoxicology: Effects of Pollutants on the Natural Environment considers the impact of chemicals on the environment from a wider perspective: the evolution of plant toxins—and defense mechanisms against them in animals as a consequence of plant–animal warfare. Comparisons are made between this and the development of resistance by insects towards man-made insecticides.

Pesticides and Drugs

The text focuses particularly on problems posed by pesticides and, to a lesser extent, by drugs. This material specifically addresses the problems that pesticides pose and explores the development of resistance to them. It focuses on the history of pesticides, pesticide selectivity between target species and beneficial organisms, and types of pesticides. It discusses mandatory ecotoxicity testing as part of the process of risk assessment of environmental chemicals. The text considers the effects of pollutants at the population level, with respect to changes in numbers and genetic composition. It factors in the sublethal effects of pollutants on population levels, and cites an increase in the concentration of persistent pollutants in natural food chains as a cause of the decline of certain vertebrate predators.

Overall the text:

• Considers plant toxins as models for pesticides

• Emphasizes principles illustrated with practical examples

• Includes a glossary of terms

Divided into three sections, this text uses a variety of examples and case studies to examine the effects of pollutants—including naturally occurring ones—on natural processes. It guides the reader through the basic issues and principles; outlines the science of ecotoxicology, which is the study of the effects of chemicals upon ecosystems; and introduces various strategies for pollution control.

Table of Contents

Section I Basic Issues

Toxicology and Ecotoxicology

Some Definitions

The Discipline of Ecotoxicology

Selective Toxicity


Further Reading



What Determines Ecotoxicity?

Pesticides and Other Biocides

Industrial Chemicals Other Than Pesticides

Protocols for Ecotoxicity Testing

Determination of Median Lethal Dose and Median Lethal


Ecotoxicity Testing That Uses Sublethal Endpoints

Bioassays for Measuring Toxicity

Model Ecosystems

Ethical Issues


Further Reading

A History of Chemical Warfare

An Evolutionary Perspective

Plant Toxins as Pesticides

The Coevolutionary "Arms Race"

Plant Toxins as Models for Pesticides

Chemical Weapons and Predation

Chemical Weapons of Attack and Defense

Microbial Toxins

Ecotoxicology against the Background of Chemical Warfare in Nature


Further Reading

Toxic Effects at Different Organizational Levels

Sequential Effects of Pollutants

Effects upon the Individual Organism

Effects at the Population Level

Effects upon Population Genetics

Communities and Ecosystems

Effects upon Structure and Function of Communities and Ecosystems

Monitoring Changes in the Composition of Communities

Field Trials


Further Reading

The Development of Resistance


Population Genetics and Evolutionary Theory

Pollutants as Stress Factors

Mechanisms of Resistance


Overcoming Problems of Pesticide Resistance

The Evolution of Metal Tolerance in Plants

Resistance as an Indicator of Pollution


Further reading

Pesticides and Their Design


Early History of Pesticides

The Importance of Selectivity

Types of Pesticides

Ways of Using Pesticides

Objectives in the Design of New Pesticides

Mass Screening

Modeling of New Pesticides Based upon the Structures of Sites of Action


Further Reading

Natural Pollutants and Natural Cycles



Acid Rain

Radiation and Radioisotopes

Oil Pollution

Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming

The Ozone Layer

Global Processes and the Gaia Theory


Further Reading

Section II Examples of Pollutants

Early Problems Connected with Urbanization and Mining


Detergents in Surface Waters

Air Pollution

Mines and Smelting


Further Reading

The Organochlorine Insecticides


DDT and Related Pesticides

The Environmental Fate of p,p’-DDT and Related Compounds

The Cyclodiene Insecticides

The Environmental Fate of Cyclodienes

Effects of DDT and Cyclodienes on Birds of Prey

Decline of Predatory Birds Related to Eggshell Thinning Caused by p,p’-DDE

Other Effects of Organochlorines

Resistance to Organochlorine Insecticides

More Ecofriendly Cyclodienes


Further Reading

Organophosphorous and Carbamate Insecticides


Mode of Action of Anticholinesterases

The Organophosphorous Insecticides

Some Examples of Organophosphorous Insecticides

Toxic Effects of OPs

Effects of OPs in the Natural Environment

Resistance to OPs

Carbamate Insecticides

Toxicity of Carbamates in the Field

Longer-Term Effects on Soil Microorganisms


Further Reading

Organometallic Compounds


Tributyl Tin Compounds

Organomercury Compounds

The Biomagnification of Methylmercury

Poisoning of Predatory Birds in the Field

Methylmercury Levels in Piscivorous Vertebrates in North America

Organolead Compounds

Organoarsenic Compounds


Further reading

Pyrethroid and Neonicotinoid Insecticides


The Synthetic Pyrethroids

Environmental Fate and Concerns

The Development of Resistance to Pyrethroids

The Neonicotinoids

Development of Resistance to Neonicotinoids

Potentiation of the Toxicity of Pyrethroids and Neonicotinoids

Effects of Pyrethroids and Neonicotinoids on Honeybees


Further Reading

PCBs and Dioxins


The Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

Early Pollution Incidents Involving PCBs

The Dioxins

The Combined Toxicity of PCBs and Dioxins


Further Reading



The Impact of Herbicides on Agricultural Ecosystems

The Aerial Movement of Herbicides

Contamination of Surface Waters with Herbicides

Herbicides That Have Significant Toxicity toward Animals


Further Reading

Endocrine Disruptors


The Feminization of Fish Caused by Estrogens

Endocrine Disruption Involving the Ah Receptor

Disturbances of the Metabolism of Steroid Hormones by Pollutants

The Diversity of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) in the Environment


Further Reading

Anticoagulant Rodenticides


Mode of Action of the Anticoagulant Rodenticides (ARs)

Secondary Poisoning of Predators and Scavengers

Resistance to Anticoagulant Rodenticides


Further Reading

Section III Further Issues

Pollution Problems Worldwide


International Approaches to Pollution Problems

Developed and Developing Countries

Aerial Application of Pesticides




Further Reading

Risk Assessment and Legislation


Risk Assessment of Chemicals

Statutory Requirements for Risk Assessment of Environmental Chemicals

The REACH Proposals of the European Union

Ethical Issues


Further reading

Current Issues and Future Prospects


Diclofenac and Vultures

The Large-Scale Decline of Bees and Other Pollinators

Marine Pollution by Polyisobutene (PIB)

Effects of Mixtures of Environmental Chemicals

The Design of More Ecofriendly Pesticides and Biocides

Improved Methods of Ecotoxicity Testing

Improvements in Procedures for Statutory Risk Assessment of Environmental Chemicals


Further Reading




About the Author

Colin Walker originally qualified as an agricultural chemist. He was responsible for chemical and biochemical studies of environmental pollutants at the Monk’s Wood Experimental Station during the mid-1960s when certain effects of organochlorine insecticides were established. This work led to restrictions on the use of cyclodienes and DDT. He subsequently joined the University of Reading where he taught and conducted research on the molecular basis of toxicity with particular reference to ecotoxicology. Now retired, he is currently affiliated with the Department of Biosciences at the University of Exeter where he contributes to the teaching of a course in ecotoxicology.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Environmental Science
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Environmental / General