Environmental Toxicology is a rapidly developing field concerned with the research how natural and man-made pollutants impact the health of humans, wildlife, and whole ecosystems. It involves application of a variety of techniques to study the impact of toxic agents on living organisms and provides powerful tools for assessing the risks associated with the presence of these agents. It draws on a variety of scientific disciplines to describe, measure, explain and predict the severity and frequency of adverse effects on living organisms due to environmental toxicant exposure. Pollution, depletion of resources and disintegration of ecological functions are of global, regional and local concerns. Environmental toxicology presents many practical applications to these problems. The findings are used by government agencies to set new pollution control standards and to analyze the severity of damage in an ecosystem and develop the smartest ways to go about cleaning it up. Land development companies may also work with environmental toxicologists to make sure that clearing and construction efforts are as environmentally-friendly as possible. It involves testing soil, water, and air samples to look for the source pollution, and use their findings to better understand health impacts on native species. Pakistan, as developing country, is facing challenges with a number of serious environmental issues such as degeneration of natural resources, industrial and vehicular pollution, pollution of coastal environment, deterioration of human health. Summarizing in financial terms, the annual cost of environmental derogation in the country is about 4.3 % of GDP (US $ 4.3 billion). This workshop is about the growing amount of pollution in Pakistan. Examines findings of different studies proving that health is being adversely affected by a variety of environmental contaminants. The above situation has arisen due to a number of factors including high population growth rate, prevailing poverty, unplanned urban and industrial expansion, insufficient emphasis on environmental protection in the government policies, lack of public awareness and education and lack of institutional capacity and resources for effective environmental management. To prevent continued environmental degradation and the decline of human & environmental health, interactions between human, other living organisms and the environment have to be in harmony. This is achievable through an integrated, holistic approach encompassing education and research activities in natural sciences, socio-economic and political factors with technological, economic and socio-cultural interventions. Increasing awareness of environmental degradation is resulting in proliferation of environmental legislation throughout the world. This drive towards greater environmental protection has created a demand for scientists skilled in assessing environmental resources and more importantly the problems associated with their exploitation. Environmental assessment may be required to evaluate the biological, physical or hydrological resources of any environment, and to place these resources within a wider geographical context. This workshop is an effort to provide a broad foundation of scientific based skills to evolve, equipping environmental professions, particularly in areas relating to environmental protection and management. Furthermore, the national and international requirements have been under concern for better environmental management understanding the inter-relationship between sustainable economic development and environmental protection.
Opening remarks from Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ashraf, Chairman department of pharmacology and toxicology/the Director Research UVAS, were followed by that of Prof. Dr. Mohammad Nawaz, Vice chancellor UVAS, and Prof. Dr. Mrs. Kausar Jamal Cheema, Dean Faculty of Natural Sciences, Lahore College for Women University, all of whom emphasized the importance to utilize the collective wisdom in provision of improved methods for toxicity assessment and rational means for estimating health risk in order to promote public health and to provide a better and safer environment to prevent health problems before they occur. They added further it is our mission to train new environmental toxicologists and address pertinent environmental toxicology questions through education and research in areas such as chemical fate, bioavailability, biological effect, toxicokinetics, and mechanisms of action. A focus on interdisciplinary approaches and scientific skills is fundamental to our education and research activities.
Dr. Sohail Ejaz (co-author of this report), PhD, University of Cambridge, UK co-ordinator and workshop organizer presented on the innovative assessment techniques for evaluating impact of Air Pollution upon Neuroinflammatory diseases of Central nervous system and how these studies could be implemented in our laboratories. New dimensions have been added to the array of outcome measures. Medical outcomes research now recognizes that patient well-being should be broadly conceptualized and measured rigorously, in addition to considering the biological process of the disease itself. As a result, health-related quality of life, the perception of well-being, is now considered a necessary component of outcomes research. Toxicologic studies have also gained in sophistication through incorporation of more sensitive indicators of effect and the careful tracing of the relationship between exposure and biologically relevant doses to target sites, which may now be considered at a molecular level. He also gave an overview of all his research activities conducted at Department of Clinical Neuroscience and how to work upon such techniques in our country with scarced resources and what targets to be achieved further to overcome environmental pollution issues in Pakistan. Dr. Sohail Ejaz bring to a close to develop and support research programs, outreach and other services that address critical issues in environmental health and toxicology.
An international speaker Prof. Dr. Gerry Amor Camer, Dean, College of Veterinary Medicine from University of Eastern Philippines, broad casted through video conferencing facility. He shared his remarkable research work on tissue toxicology and presented a talk on “Understanding the pathology of tissues exposed to various toxins and pollutants”. Assessment of the environmental effects of chemicals is complicated as it depends on the organisms tested and involves not only the toxicity of individual chemicals, but also their interactive effects, genotoxicity, mutagenecity and immunotoxicity testing. He further elaborated that a number of stressors affect the environment and sometimes when showing synergistic effects they become difficult to quantify or predict their individual effects. Thus, there is a need to understand the toxicant effects at molecular levels to predict their effects and existing techniques to be constantly modified to provide better means of their quantification.
Dr. Zulfiqar Ali, Department of wildlife and ecology, UVAS, presented on Sources and Health effects of different Air pollutants. The mechanisms for modeling and understanding the fate of air pollutants through atmospheric transport, deposition into water and soil, bioaccumulation, and ultimate uptake to receptor organs and systems in the human body are complex. These require more experimental and theoretical developments in order to produce approaches for characterization and appropriate strategies and assays for screening in order to detect the harmful agents and prevent them from reaching sensitive endpoints.
This seminar and workshop provided researchers from all over Pakistan a comprehensive platform where all facets of environmental pollution as it exists in our country to be fully explored and a forum to these professionals and researchers to discuss and present latest research trends and results in the field of Toxicology. Such initiatives help to support the study, analysis, and solution of environmental problems which are ultimately affecting the health of human beings, animals, plants, soils and over all eco-system integrity. Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ashraf highlighted different research activities rendered by the department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the recent years at his institution. He discussed the establishment of new laboratories at the department an effort to open doorways to many new dimensions thus promoting the advancement and application of scientific research related to the contaminants. This included the establishment of Angiogenesis & Toxicology lab (ATRL) and a Neuropharmacology lab in the faculty a progressive step for Applied Neuropharmacology & Cancer research. He elaborated further that our research aims to determine how environmental pollutants interact with cellular functions and give rise to long-lasting adverse health effects in vertebrates including humans. We are particularly interested in toxic effects that target the hormone system, the reproductive system and the early brain development and other systems in vertebrates. Enzyme-catalysed activation in target cells and tissues and receptor-mediated responses are important areas of research. With an introduction of these laboratories, it is also an effort in attracting very high quality students across Pakistan and foreign qualified and relevant faculty members to take lead on viable research projects needed to address our country-specific problems.
Speakers from various universities and Govt. departments presented their research projects and research papers. Mr. Khaleeq Anwar, PhD Scholar, presented his work on “Impact of Automobile rickshaw on Public health”. He presented evidence that Automobile rickshaws are among one of the major sources of air pollution in Pakistan, contaminants released from them include the major pollutants Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Hydrocarbons (HC) and Particulate Matter (PM) expressing their devastating effects in deteriorating public health. To have a control over contaminants realized by these two-or three stroke conventional rickshaws CNG rickshaws were introduced. Mr. Rizwan Ahmad, Assistant Director, Vehicular Pollution Control, Govt. of Punjab, further extended the talk by presenting on “Advantages of CNG over other fuels”. He presented his study on the nature of the toxicants effluent by burning natural gas as fuel and a comparative analysis was made between the nature of the contaminants released by both conventional automobile rickshaw and CNG rickshaw. Statistically significant data was evidenced that emphasized the use of CNG rickshaw to be preferred over the conventional two-or three stroke rickshaws.
Lubna Shakir, PhD Scholar, discussed the public health problems aroused due to discharge of tannery effluent wastewater directly into the ground in the city of Kasur. The environment is under increasing pressure from solid and liquid wastes emanating from the leather industry. These are inevitable by-products of the leather manufacturing process and cause significant pollution unless treated in some way prior to discharge. The effect of excessive pollutant levels commonly found in tannery effluents can be severe. Water is so contaminated that potable water has high levels of chromium and other toxicants have been reported in appreciable amounts unfit to be used by public. She presented a comprehensive lecture entitled, “Chemical, microbiological and toxicological screening of tannery effluent wastewater”. In her work she quantified the various toxicants and studied their deleterious effects using laboratory animals by using various dilutions of this tannery waterwaste. She further elaborated her talk that assessment of the environmental effects of chemicals is complicated as it depends on the organisms tested and involves not only the toxicity of individual chemicals, but multiple factors are involved in relation to health behaviors, which may often result in adverse health outcomes.
Zahida Umer, a young researcher, outlined the data showing the Measurement of pollution levels in different areas of Lahore by using carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide meters, and other available contaminant measurement meters and impacter for particulate matter in different areas of Lahore and provided a comparative analysis of these toxicants at different areas. She further lucubrated her talk by explaining different methodologies for air pollution measurement. Air pollution can be directly measured as it is emitted by a source in mass/volume of emission (e.g., grams/m3) or mass/process parameter (e.g., grams/Kg fuel consumed or grams/second). Air pollution can also be measured in the atmosphere as a concentration (e.g., micrograms/m3). Ambient air monitoring data is used to determine air quality, establish the extent of air pollution problems, assess whether established standards are being met, and characterize the potential human health risk in an area. Alternatively, air pollution concentrations can be simulated using computer models, and then validated using data collected from direct measurements at selected monitors or sources. Air pollution data and models are used together to examine the impacts of control strategies on the ambient air.
Kanwal Zahra, Government College University, presented on “Effects of industrial effluent on the thyroid glands of human population”. The human body is immensely complex, and our knowledge and awareness of its complexity continues to grow. One of the most disquieting discoveries in recent years concerns the possible roles of environmental chemicals on endocrine systems. Among the hormones (“chemical messengers”) operating within the endocrine system are estrogen (a female sex hormone produced by the ovaries); thyroid hormone (influencing the function of virtually every cell in the body); and ACTH (produced by the pituitary gland to influence the release of adrenalin from the adrenal gland). Endocrine systems can be affected by these pollutants by interfering with the normal communication between the messenger and the cell receptors, the chemical message is misinterpreted, generating abnormal response(s) in the body. As thyroid glands releasing hormones influencing the total metabolic rate of the body, in her study she evidenced the various pathological outcomes of thyroid intoxication by these industrial wastes and could be the possible damaging effects resulted.
Prof. Dr. Sharif Mughal, Government College University, discussed the impact of various toxicants on marine environment. Petroleum hydrocarbons are found in sea surface film throughout the world. The oceans have served as a repository for a multitude of wastes and receive effluent from rivers, streams, and groundwater. Atmospheric deposition of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other hydrocarbons adds to the burden of pollutants in the marine environment. Industrial smokestacks, incinerators, outfall pipes, automobiles, lawn chemicals, agricultural chemicals, homes, businesses, commercial ships, and motorized pleasure craft are all sources of contaminants. Many of these chemicals are fat-soluble and come to reside in the fatty tissues of marine animals. Some of these chemicals have been characterized as endocrine disrupters; some are believed to reduce reproductive success, to interfere with developmental processes, and/or to suppress immune function. Other chemicals, such as PAHs, do not bioaccumulate in marine mammals but may have adverse impacts on the health of marine animals through repeated exposure and metabolic response. He evidenced the above scenario by presenting his study on the Serological and histological changes in the liver of Labeo Rohita dur due to fluoride intoxication. An effort to characterize the types of lesions produced by these chemical contaminants found in, the metabolic response to such contaminants, and the extent of tissue damage caused by exposure to these contaminants. He further elaborated his talk that animals are exposed to natural toxicants in their native environments as well as to synthetic chemicals and drugs. Factors that affect the toxicity include; those related to the toxicants , which influence how it enter and ultimately influence the factors related to the host animals that change its ability to detoxify or adapt to the toxicant.
The final Lecture of the workshop was presented on the topic, “Characterization of Environmental pathologies by immunohistochemistry” by Dr. Sohail Ejaz, PhD, University of Cambridge, England. He flesh out his talk that Environmental toxicity encompasses the study of the toxic properties of not only synthetic chemicals but natural also, including their effects on humans and animals as well as their movement and fate in the environment. It is a need to develop research techniques for the assessments of effects of these pollutants and monitoring their lethal effects not on human health only but affecting every living being and our eco-system. Thus putting our joint efforts to provide a better and safer environment to prevent health problems before they occur.
This was a variegate workshop to support and promote the study, analysis, and solution of environmental problems which ultimately affecting the health of human beings, animals, plants, soils, damage buildings and other property and uplift of awareness level at National and International level through research and development. We can live a healthy life in a clean environment and it can only be achieved by realizing and understanding the importance of clean environment. Therefore to provide awareness about the effects of all possible environmental pollutants and the corresponding measures to be taken to decrease contaminants exposure. Also to encourage research techniques for the assessment of effects of these pollutants and monitoring their lethal effects on human health and conserving and protecting our environment.
Disclosures and Supplementary Information:
This workshop was organized at Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore in collaboration with the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, UK
This meeting was funded by Higher Education Commission, Islamabad, Pakistan.