Spring 2023 - BISC 313 D100

Environmental Toxicology: A Mechanistic Perspective (3)

Class Number: 1746

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 4 – Apr 11, 2023: Mon, Wed, Fri, 10:30–11:20 a.m.

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 14, 2023
    Fri, 12:00–3:00 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    BISC 101 and one of BISC 204, GEOG 215, or MBB 231; all with a grade of C- or better.



Students are introduced to general principles of toxicological action, testing, evaluation and assessment. The environmental fate and toxic mechanisms of action of several important classes of environmental pollutants in several organisms (including humans) will be examined at different levels of organization, from the molecular and biochemical to the function of organ systems and behavior.


Course description:

This course serves as an introduction to the field of Environmental Toxicology. General principles of toxicological action, testing, evaluation and assessment will be discussed. The toxicological action and fate of several important classes of environmental pollutants in several organisms (including humans) will be examined at different levels of organization from the molecular and biochemical to the function of organ systems and behavior.

Objectives of Course
Upon successful completion of this course, the student should be able to:

1.   Describe the fate of foreign compounds in the environment and in a variety of different organisms and the general principles behind this

2.   Explain some of the common biological mechanisms negatively impacted by environmental contaminants and give several examples of
      common environmental pollutants and their specific mechanisms of action.

3.   Recognize the variety of toxic impacts that environmental contaminants have on organisms and ecosystems.

4.   Evaluate data obtained from common toxicological tests; and

5.    Identify and discuss various issues related to toxicology, such as risk assessment.

Tentative Lecture Schedule:

The course is given in four sections: Part I: Introduction to Toxicological Principles, Part II: Toxicological Testing, Part III: Specific Toxicants and Mechanisms, and Part IV (1 lecture): Environmental Risk Assessment

Part I: Introduction to Toxicological Principles

Week 1:   Introduction to and definition of toxicology. History of toxicology. Goals of the toxicologist. Different areas of toxicology.

Week 2:   Introduction to toxicokinetic phases of toxicant action. Chemical management plans. Key chemical characteristics for environmental
               fate. Partitioning.

Week 3:     Fate of chemicals in water, air and sediments.

Week 4:     Introduction to exposure to chemicals. Mechanisms of toxicant absorption (routes of exposure).

Weelk 5:     Midterm Exam I. February 3, 2021. Distribution of chemicals.

Week 6:      Principles and examples of bioaccumulation and biomagnification. The biotransformation of chemicials.

Week 7:      Biotransformation continued. Excretion of chemicals.

Week 8:      Introduction to the toxicodynamic phase of toxicant action. General mechanisms of toxic action.

Part II:  Toxicological Teting

Week 9:      Numbers in toxicology. Dose-response relationships. Statistics. Toxicological testing procedures: acute, short-term, and chronic

Week 10:   Midterm Exam II: March 10, 2022, Other toxicity tests.

Part III: Specific Toxicants and Risk Assessment

Week 11:   Mechanisms of mutagenesis, carcinogenesis and teratogenesis. Endocrine disruptors.

Week 12:   Pesticides and heavy metals. Persistent Organic Pollutants. Petroleum products and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Week 13:   Environmental Risk Assessment.

Final Exam:  TBA.






  • Midterm 40%
  • Final Examination 60%


Midterm Exam: February 18, 2023

The final examination will include material from the whole course, although emphasis will be placed on the latter half of the course. Exams will be comprehensive and consist of short answer and essay type questions.

Grade               Grade Points                 % Conversion                     Definition of Grade

A+                         4.33                             90-100                           Exceptional achievement

A                           4.00                              85-89                           Outstanding achievement

A-                          3.67                              80-84                           Excellent achievement

B+                         3.33                              76-79                           Very good achievement

B                           3.00                              72-75                           Good achievement

B-                          2.67                              68-71                           Good achievement

C+                         2.33                              64-67                           Satisfactory achievement

C                           2.00                              60-63                           Satisfactory achievement

C-                          1.67                              56-59                           Satisfactory achievement.

                                                                                                      This grade does not permit students

                                                                                                      to pursue another course for which the graded course was prerequisite.

D                           1.00                              50-55                           Marginal achievement. The minimum course requirements have been                                                                                                          successfully completed.

F                            0.00                                0-49                           Unsatisfactory achievement. Student did not meet minimum                                                                                                                      requirements.


Policy on exams:

Exams, are to be taken at the specified date and time.  Make-up exams will only be allowed in the case of documented illness.



There is NO required textbook: material will be from lecture notes only, or supplied articles by the Instructor


Other sources of lecture material are:


'Casarett and Doull's Toxicology, The Basic Science of Poisons'. C. D. Klaassen, M. O. Amdur and J. Doull, eds. 4th edition. Macmillan, New York, 2021.


Introduction to Toxicology, by J. A. Timbrell. 2001. 3rd edition. Taylor & Francis Ltd., London.


'Basic Toxicology: Fundamentals, Target Organs, and Risk Assessment'. 7th edition. F. C. Lu. Hemisphere, New York, 2017.



Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html