Toxicology is a field that overlaps biology, chemistry, pharmacology and medicine, studying of the adverse effects of chemical substances on people, plants and animals. Toxicology involves the practice of diagnosing and treating exposure to toxins. The relationship between dose and its effects upon exposure is of high significance. Factors that influence chemical toxicity include the dosage (and whether it is acute or chronic), route of exposure, species, age, sex and environment. In summary, toxicologists are experts on pollutants, poisons and drugs.
In society, toxins often take the form of illegal drugs and misused prescription medication, but can also be chemicals breathed in or ingested in the workplace.
Common examples include stimulants such as cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamines, the possession of which is a criminal offence in all Australian jurisdictions. Increasingly, fatalities involving opioids such as fentanyl and oxycodone are becoming common in Australia, after reaching epidemic proportions in the USA.
At the bottom of this profile are brief details of a number of the experts that Expert Experts represents. Call our office to discuss your requirements and to obtain an expert submission that suits your needs and budget.
Expertise in Action
Toxicologists study the amount of exposure to a substance (e.g. from pollution caused by environmental contaminants such as industrial waste products or emergency events such as a gas leak) and the potential effect it may have on public health, plants, animals and the ecosystem.
They study how exposure to foreign chemicals affects the genetic, chemical, physical and structural composition of cells, tissues, organ systems and whole organisms. They then devise and carry out experiments to determine how chemical or drug concentrations in the body change over time.
In addition, toxicologists test newly discovered or manufactured substances for their safety, effects and possible use as drugs. They analyse blood, urine and other biological and environmental samples to identify the chemical composition and concentration of drugs, contaminants and other substances and evaluate evidence from cases where tampering and contamination has occurred.
Finally, toxicologists write reports on research and investigations, as well as more general information for scientific institutions, government, community groups and the media. These reports provide advice to managers, politicians, primary producers, healthcare workers and the general public.
In court, toxicologists can serve as expert witnesses in cases involving drugs, pollutants or chemicals and they are commonly faced with questions involving estimation of toxins ingested. Consulting toxicologists can use retrograde extrapolation techniques to obtain the dosage after the event, and can also conduct post-mortem forensic evaluations with regards to toxins.
Pharmacological or toxicological experts in stimulants such as amphetamines are often required to provide opinion on criminal matters involving the importation, sale or manufacturing of drugs. Their opinion is often considered by judges when sentencing people with extreme dependence on such drugs. They may also be required to assess the impact of performance-enhancing drugs on athlete performance.
The recreational use of tranquilisers and strong painkillers is illegal across Australia due to their highly addictive nature and likelihood for overdose. As such, experts in the medical effects of such drugs are often required in cases involving the sale of tranquilisers, and dangerous behaviour as a result of prescription painkillers, resulting in injury or death.
Pharmacological/toxicological experts specialising in tranquilisers may be required to provide opinion on:
- Cause of death
- The effects on those involved in crimes or civil disputes
Expert opinion is also required in cases involving the possession, cultivation and supply of cannabis, and where the government may consider allowing medicinal use.
A common role of toxicologists in Australia is to perform toxicology tests on deceased persons where requested by the state coroner.
For some fields of expertise we have some sample sections of de-identified reports. Please contact our office if you are interested in a sample.
The overall cost of expert opinion depends on the services required. Some of the key factors that affect the cost of advice include:
- The need for a view or inspection of a location
- The quantity of documentary material to be reviewed
- Whether there are reports of other experts to be reviewed and commented on in detail
- Whether there is a need for conferences with the expert either in person or by telephone/Skype