Spring 2019 - BISC 313 D100

Environmental Toxicology: A Mechanistic Perspective (3)

Class Number: 2324

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo, We, Fr 10:30 AM – 11:20 AM
    AQ 3150, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 10, 2019
    3:30 PM – 6:30 PM
    SSCB 9200, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    MBB 231 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 fate. 

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 Part IV: Environmental Risk Assessment

Part I: Introduction to Toxicological Principles 

Week 1        Introduction to and definition of toxicology. History of toxicology.  
Week 2        Goals of the toxicologist. Different areas of toxicology. Introduction to toxicokinetic phases of toxicant action.  
Week 3        Introduction to exposure to chemicals.  Mechanisms of toxicant absorption (routes of exposure) and distribution. 
Week 4        The metabolism and excretion of toxicants. Principles and examples of bioaccumulation and biomagnification.  
Week 5        Midterm Exam I. Continue excretion.
Week 6        Introduction to the toxicodynamic phase of toxicant action.
Week 7        General mechanisms of toxic action. 

Part II: Toxicological Testing 

Week 8        Numbers in toxicology.  Dose-response relationships.  Statistics.
Week 9        Toxicological testing procedures: acute, short-term, and chronic tests.  Other toxicity tests.
Week 10      Midterm Exam II. Continue toxicity testing. 

Part III: Specific Toxicants 

Week 11       Mechanisms of mutagenisis, carcinogenesis and teratogenesis. 
Week 12       Pesticides and heavy metals.                                                            
Week 13       Persistent Organic Pollutants. Petroleum products and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Endocrine disruptors. 

Part IV: Risk Assessment and Legislation 

Week 14       Environmental Risk Assessments. Review of course and questions.
Week 17       Final Exam. December TBA


  • Midterm Examination I 20%
  • Midterm Examination II 20%
  • Final Examination 60%



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 whichthe 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.



Resource Material:

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. Macmillan, New York, 2008. 

Introduction to Toxicology, by J. A. Timbrell. 1989. Taylor & Francis Ltd., London. 

'Basic Toxicology: Fundamentals, Target Organs, and Risk Assessment'. F. C. Lu. Hemisphere, New York, 1985.

'Introduction to Toxicology'. J. A. Timbrell. Taylor and Francis, New York, 1989. 

'Introduction to Environmental Toxicology'. F. E. Guthrie and J. J. Perry, eds. Elsevier Science Publishing, New York, 1980. 

'A  Textbook of Modern Toxicology'. E. Hodgson and P. E. Levi. Elsevier Science Publishing, New York, 1987


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

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site 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