Regulatory toxicologists need a broad knowledge,usually gained from postgraduate experience in academia or previous experience in industry or contract toxicology. They must be able to evaluate data from all branches of toxicology and assess its relevance to human health in real-life chemical exposure situations – it’s important to not only understand the health hazards posed by a chemical, but also how these translate into health risks for a given population. Risk will be affected by how people are exposed to a chemical, such as the level and duration of exposure, and the way in which a chemical gets into the body.
Communication skills are very important to a government toxicologist. Having evaluated the available scientific data and produced a risk assessment, they may need to share this with other scientists, policy makers, politicians, journalists and the general public. Each may have their own concerns, preconceptions and misconceptions; getting the message across strongly enough for action to be taken, but without causing unnecessary panic, often requires more than a little diplomacy!
Of course, applying toxicology to such a wide variety of problems is rather more than a matter of careful judgement – it also forms the basis of a fascinating and varied career with important consequences for public health. The regulatory toxicologist’s recommendations will become the basis for regulations, and Government policy and advice, which will help protect many aspects of our daily lives. Regulatory toxicologists help to enhance and safeguard the health of the public.