Let’s Talk about TAO: Toxicology, Assessment, and Organized Training in Africa

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Like an old wine that gets better with age, the Toxicologists of African Origin (TAO) Special Interest Group annual Informational Session gets more souped up. At the SOT 58th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo, the Informational Session “Toxicology Education and Risk Assessment Training in Africa: Status, Challenges, and Role of SOT Special Interest Groups in Moving Forward,” endorsed by TAO, was a rich potpourri of toxicology, training, teaching, risk assessment, and advancement of best practices in Africa.

2019 TAO Informational Session.pngDr. Mary Gulumian of the National Institute for Occupational Health South Africa hit the nail on the head by implicating the dearth of well-trained toxicologists as the most acute challenge facing the African continent. To address this inadequacy, she advocated the incorporation of short and advanced training courses, with relevant case studies, at university-level curricula.

After Dr. Gulumian’s stage-setting introduction, Dr. Bernard Gadagbui of Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA) posited that nonprofit organizations such as SOT, the International Union of Toxicology (IUTOX), and TERA have contributed immensely to capacity building and strengthening of toxicological programs through their various training initiatives. However, he appealed that these organizations should escalate health assessment training on the continent.

Later on, Dr. Wilson Rumbeiha of the Iowa State University reiterated the role of animals as sentinels of environmental toxicology, citing the “dancing” cats episode in Minamata, Japan, that predicated a deadly environmental disaster as case study. For all intents and purposes, he surmised that competency in veterinary toxicology was essential to promote human, animal, and environmental health.

Finally, it was the turn of Dr. Darryl Hood of the Ohio State University and current President of TAO to deliver his seminal paper. According to him, “Africa is at the beginning stage of an epidemiological transition from infectious diseases to noncommunicable diseases.” He went ahead to list the major sources of pollution in Africa. These included pollution from ambient air, traffic, industrial, open waste, electronic, and mining. Dr. Hood later identified air and metal pollution as critical sources of pollution on the African continent. He arrived at this conclusion based on a literature search that indicated the low proportion of African researchers involved in these areas. 

This blog was prepared by an SOT Reporter. SOT Reporters are SOT members who volunteer to write about sessions and events they attend during the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo. If you are interested in participating in the SOT Reporter program in the future, please email Giuliana Macaluso.

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