Structural improvement of higher education in environmental toxicology in Latin America and Europe

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Toxicology Letters, 1879-3169, Vol. 111, No. 3, 2000, p. 203-211

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Industrial development has resulted in an increased release of chemicals and other agents into the environment, resulting in damage to the environment as well as increasing the risk of adverse effects on human health. Environmental toxicology (ET) is the discipline responsible for assessing the risks to human health and the environment from the effects of new chemicals and those already present in the environment. The development of human resources in toxicology is therefore a priority in both Latin America (LA) and the European Union (EU), although LA professionals are more involved in risk evaluation than in risk assessment compared to their EU colleagues. A solid background in general toxicology will enable those interested in environmental issues to tackle local problems. Moreover, the increasing globalization of markets and, therefore, of the necessary regulations, requires harmonisation of postgraduate programmes to ensure that risk assessment and management related to the environment are dealt with uniformly and by highly qualified scientists. The Inaugural Meeting of the ALFA-OMET project ‘Development, Integration and Harmonisation of Training in Occupational Medicine and Environmental Toxicology’, a 2-year programme supported by the European Commission, offered the opportunity to discuss a number of these issues. The present status of existing ET courses in the EU and LA and the corresponding professional profiles in the two regions were examined, and a harmonized academic curriculum for a postgraduate course in environmental toxicology was developed. Finally, a course programme for toxicology and a specialization in environmental toxicology designed by a panel of experts was discussed, and its relevance as a model for other specialisation programmes was analysed. Exercises such as those performed by ALFA-OMET may be useful not only in promoting discussion for the implementation of national and international professional registers in LA, but also in encouraging the same, ongoing process in the EU.

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Academic harmonization, Environmental toxicology, Higher education programmes, Postgraduate education, Professional registration