What’s a typical day at work like?
I am a desk-based toxicologist, so I sit in an office and do computer-based tasks all day. I complete a lot of risk assessments for chemicals in the environment, particularly those that have been detected in water (environmental (such as rivers and lakes) and drinking water). Therefore, a significant part of my job involves searching for relevant information using a wide variety of sources including the internet, books and journals etc. Once all the information has been found, I then have to compile, often short and concise, reports on the chemical in question to explain its effects to human health, effects tothe environment and how it will behave in the environment. These are often done within very tight timescales – often in hours, so it can get somewhat exciting! From this information, I also derive ‘safe’ levels for the chemical in drinking water, and relay the information found to members of the water industry or the UK environment agencies who may not have toxicological knowledge. As a consultancy company, we also do a lot of work for other Government and European agencies involving the presence of chemicals in the environment and their resultant impacts.
What are the best things about being an environmental toxicologist?
I think the best bit is knowing that you are making a difference – people come to you asking for advice on health issues and it is really rewarding knowing that you can help them, especially if you come across the incident you are dealing with in the press! Also, with the world becoming a much more environmentally-aware place, it is good to know that you are helping to maintain its overall ‘health’ for future generations.