Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Toxicology is the science of poisons. A poison is any substance, natural or man-made, that adversely affects the body, resulting in illness or death. Toxic agents from animals and plants have been known and studied since antiquity. There is no characteristic of man-made chemicals that makes them inherently more toxic than naturally occurring chemicals. Some of the most toxic compounds known are produced by nonhuman living organisms. For example, aflatoxin is the most potent carcinogen known, and it is a natural chemical produced by a mold that grows on nuts. The actual number of poisoning incidents occurring each year in the United States is unclear. Information collected by the American Association of Poison Control Centers indicates that around 2 million poisoning incidents are reported each year. However, analysis of national mortality statistics suggests that poisoning incidents are actually underreported, and the real figure may be many times higher. Most reported ...