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Ecotoxicology and Environmental Health - ENV00106M

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  • Department: Environment and Geography
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Alistair Boxall
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

Over 230,000 different chemicals (and materials such as nanoparticles and plastics) are used globally and it is inevitable that during their production, use and disposal, these will be released to the natural environment. Toxins can also be produced naturally by algae, fungi and plants. Exposure to these chemical pollutants may lead to negative effects on aquatic and terrestrial organisms and on human health. This module introduces students, with a broad range of backgrounds, to the fields of ecotoxicology, mammalian toxicology and environmental fate, exposure, effects and and ecological and human health impact assessment of chemicals.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

The module will begin by introducing students to the environmental challenges resulting from exposure to the chemical universe and the threats of chemical pollution to the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals. Sessions will then take a step-by-step approach to describe: how chemicals are emitted to or formed in the environment; their fate, transport in the environment; uptake into organisms and food chains; how humans and other organisms are exposed to chemicals; and the direct and indirect effects on ecosystems and human health; and how the impacts of chemicals are assessed from a regulatory and/or policy perspective. Throughout the module, students will be introduced to experimental, modelling and data review and analysis approaches that are used in the risk assessment process for a chemical.

Specific employability skills

Understanding of the regulatory requirements and approaches for assessing the risks of chemicals in the environment

Laboratory skills for testing the fate and effects of chemicals

Use of exposure models and exposure assessment approaches

Use of online databases for obtaining information on the properties, fate and effects of chemicals

Use of in silico models for estimating the properties, fate and effects of untested chemicals

Use of quality assessment methodologies. such as CRED, for fate and ecotoxicity data

Hands-on experience of ecological and human health risk assessment methods

Generic skills

Undertaken an independent piece of literature review, assessment and synthesis

The ability to use a variety of data sources, i.e. Journals, web pages, databases (data-mining)

Weighing of evidence on complex environmental issues and with imperfect scientific evidence

Quantitative skills (calculations)

Module learning outcomes

Subject content. By the end of the module, students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of:

  1. a broad understanding of different types of chemical contaminants and of how these are released to or formed in the natural environment;

  2. the fate and transport processes for contaminants in the environment;

  3. how chemicals are accumulated into organisms including humans;

  4. how to assess ecological and human exposure to chemical pollutants;

  5. how contaminants can affect both environmental and human health;

  6. current approaches for environmental risk assessment of a new chemical

  7. how information on fate and effects can be drawn together to assess the risks of chemicals to the environment to ecosystems and humans


Task Length % of module mark
Environmental risk assessment of case study chemical
N/A 80
GLP summary report of sorption practical
N/A 20

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Closed/in-person Exam (Centrally scheduled)
Closed exam
3 hours 100

Module feedback

Written feedback will be provided on the summative assessment.

Indicative reading

Environmental Toxicology, an open online textbook – available at:!page-5658449

Baird, C. and Cann, M. (2005) Environmental Chemistry, Third Edition. WH Freeman

vanLoon, G. W., and Duffy, S. J (2005) Environmental Chemistry: A global perspective, 2nd Edition. Oxford

Beard, J. M. (2008) Environmental Chemistry in Society. CRC Press

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.