Environmental Toxicology

Course code:
Period 1
Language of tuition:
Fac. der Aard- en Levenswetenschappen
dr. ir. C.A.M. van Gestel
dr. ir. C.A.M. van Gestel
dr. ir. C.A.M. van Gestel
dr. ir. T.H.M. Hamers
Teaching method(s):
Study Group, Lecture, Computer lab, Practical

Course objective

Become familiar with the basic principles of environmental toxicology,
including aspects of exposure, toxicity and risk assessment of chemicals
in the environment.

Final attainment levels:
after this course, the student is capable of:
• Recognizing different chemical classes of toxic compounds;
• Naming different sources of toxic chemicals;
• Naming different properties determining the fate of toxic chemicals in
the environment;
• Describing the processes determining the fate of chemicals in the
• Listing different methods used for assessing the toxicity of
individual chemicals and complex mixtures;
• Mentioning different methods for assessing the (eco)toxicity of
samples of soil, water and tissues;
• Explaining different modes of action of toxic chemicals;
• Mentioning the main targets of chemicals in organisms;
• Distinguishing effects of toxic chemicals at different levels of
biological organization;
• Applying (eco)toxicological knowledge in the human and
ecotoxicological risk assessment of chemicals

Course content

This course offers an introduction to the recognition, analysis and
prediction of environmental and human health problems caused by
potentially toxic chemicals. Emphasis lies on the relation between the
mode of action of a chemical and its effects on individuals and
populations. In this course, aspects from environmental chemistry and
toxicology will be presented, while attention is also paid to aspects of
ecology and risk assessment.

The theory presented includes the following aspects:
• History and aims of environmental toxicology;
• Overview of potentially hazardous chemicals;
• Distribution and mobility of chemicals in the environment;
• Bioavailability, uptake and elimination kinetics;
• Bioaccumulation, biotransformation and excretion;
• Dose-response relationships;
• Modes of action;
• Structure-activity relationships;
• Mixture toxicity;
• Development of resistance;
• Effects on populations and ecosystems;
• Methods of environmental diagnosis;
• Bioassays, biosensors and biomarkers;
• Models for predicting chemical concentrations and effects;
• Environmental and human risk assessment of chemicals;
• Risk limits for chemicals in environmental legislation.

Form of tuition

Lectures (± 30 hours);
Working classes and interactive sessions to practice with theory (± 10
Computer practical (± 6 hours);
Self study (± 119 hours);
Exam (3 hours)

lectures will be given by Dr. C.A.M. van Gestel and Dr. T.H.M. Hamers

Type of assessment

Written exam (T)

Course reading

Principles of Ecotoxicology, C.H. Walker, et al. CRC Press Taylor &
Francis Group, Fourth Edition (2012, ISBN: 9781439862667), Costs approx.
€ 50.

Target audience

Optional for 3rd year bachelor students in the minor programmes
Evolutionary Biology and Ecology (Biology) and Environmental Health
(Health and Life Sciences).
The course is open to students from other teaching programmes. Students
from other programmes should contact the course coordinator and ask the
examination committee of their own teaching programme for permission to
attend the course.


This minor course requires a minimum of 25 participants to take place

© Copyright VU University Amsterdam
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