Essentials of Toxic Chemical Risk: Science and Society, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Essentials of Toxic Chemical Risk

Science and Society, 1st Edition

By Stephen Penningroth

CRC Press

212 pages | 30 B/W Illus.

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A contribution to the ongoing debate about how to manage the growing risks of anthropogenic chemicals in the environment, Essentials of Toxic Chemical Risk weaves together coverage of the science that underlies toxic chemical risk assessment, the physiological and molecular bases of chemical toxicity, the process of assessing toxic chemical risk to human health and the environment, and the strategies employed in managing it. The book links toxic chemical risk to the real world of people and communities confronted with the vexing problem of how to deal with products that make their lives better but that also harbor a potential for harm.

The book introduces the basics of toxicology from a risk assessment perspective, using a jargon-free, journalistic style that makes scientific concepts accessible to a wide audience without "dumbing down" the science. It covers the fate and transport of chemicals in the environment, dose-effect, animal toxicity testing, human epidemiology, the uptake, distribution, and elimination of toxic chemicals including first-order rate constants and calculations of body burdens, and the cellular basis of cancer and other diseases that can be caused by toxic chemicals. The book also introduces risk management and discusses the balance between precaution and socio-economic benefits, as embodied by the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and the European Union’s innovative REACH directive (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of chemicals).

Putting equal emphasis on the twin issues of risk assessment and risk management, the author has carefully selected topics that shed light on risk management decisions and cover ecotoxicolocy and organismic toxicology. The book provides a thorough introduction to the science of toxicology and to the policy debates and scientific uncertainties that make risk management a work in progress.

Table of Contents

Toxic Chemical Risk as Science and Social Discourse

The Science of Toxicology

Chemical Hazard, Risk Assessment, and Risk Management

How This Book Is Organized


Environmental Pathways of Toxic Chemicals



Advective Transport

Chemical Transformation

Bioconcentration, Bioaccumulation, and Biomagnification

Ecosystems and Biogeochemical Cycles

The Hydrologic Cycle

Assessing and Managing Exposure


Dose-Effect: The Foundation of Toxicological Science


Ethical Dilemmas and the Protection of Public Health

Preliminary Investigations of Toxicity

The Quantal Dose-Effect Relationship: The Workhorse of Risk Assessment

The Graded Dose-Effect Relationship


Human Populations at Risk


Law and Loopholes

After the Fact

The Null Hypothesis and Statistical Power

Proof of Causation

Designing an Epidemiological Study: Cohort vs. Case Control

Level I, II, and III Epidemiological Studies


The Cornerstone of Risk Assessment: Toxicity Testing in Animals


Designing a Toxicity Test

Descriptions of Toxicity Tests and Their Products

The Probit Plot

Information Derived from Toxicity Testing

Toxicity Investigations in Individual Organisms vs. Populations

Using Animals to Screen Personal-Care Products: Local Irritation and Sensitization Tests

Reducing the Use of Animals in Toxicity Testing


The Body’s Defenses against Chemical Toxicity


Exposure and Bioavailability

The Cell Membrane

Elimination by the Kidneys

Excretion, Elimination, and Weak Acids and Bases


The Kinetics of Single-Dose Exposure: Uptake, Distribution, and Elimination

The Kinetics of Repeated-Dose Exposure


Mechanisms of Chemical Disease


Noncancer Health Effects



Human Health Risk Assessment


The Process of Risk Assessment

Hazard Identification

Analysis of Exposure

Analysis of Effects

Risk Characterization


Ecological Risk Assessment

Framework for Ecological Risk Assessment

The EPA’s Ecological Risk-Assessment Process

Environmental Impact Statement


Managing Chemical Risk in North America and Europe


Costs of Toxic Chemicals to Society

Core Concepts of Risk Management

General Strategies for Managing Toxic Chemical Risk

Environmental Laws in North America and Europe



About the Author

Stephen Penningroth was educated at a German Gymnasium, did his undergraduate work at Brown University and the Columbia University School of General Studies, and earned a Ph.D. in Biochemical Sciences from Princeton University in 1977. He served as an assistant and associate professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Osteopathic Medicine, teaching pharmacology and toxicology to second-year medical and osteopathic students and performing basic research on cell motility with grant support from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Following a sabbatical leave, he shifted focus to science education, resigning from the medical school and moving to Cornell University as an adjunct faculty member in 1993. While at Cornell he designed and taught undergraduate courses in environmental, regulatory and reproductive toxicology and also acted as a technical advisor to three citizens groups at Superfund toxic waste sites in New York and New Jersey. Since 2000 he has served as Executive Director of the not-for-profit Community Science Institute in Ithaca, NY, which partners with citizen volunteers to address risks to water in the Finger Lakes region.

Subject Categories

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