Course Opportunity: SIO 296: Pollution, Environment and Health v. 1

The Division of Biological Sciences encourages students to explore courses of interest outside of the Division, but please be aware that SIO 296 DOES NOT COUNT toward Biology Major or Minor Requirements.

Course Opportunity:

SIO 189: Pollution Environment and Health The course is a basic introduction to environmental toxicology and would be relevant to students  for with interests ranging from environmental policy, to medicine.

SIO 296:  Pollution, Environment and Health v. 1

Spring 2012, TR 2-3:20, Vaughn Hall 100

(n.b. lecture time may be adjusted to give students adequate time to get to and from SIO)

4 Units Credit, Offered for letter grade

Instructor: Amro Hamdoun


Course description:

In less than 100 years, humans have produced nearly 85,000 synthetic chemicals and dramatically increased the environmental concentrations natural harmful compounds such as carbon dioxide and mercury. Is pollution a problem? Do environmental chemicals affect our health? How is science applied to solving our world most pressing pollutions problems?

This course has three major goals: the first is to study the scope and consequences of the pollution problem. The second is to understand the basic properties and fate of chemicals in the environment. The third is to study the biological mechanisms, particularly those operating at the cellular level, that determine accumulation and toxicity of chemicals. By the end of the course students should have the basic toolkit necessary for evaluating complex information on the effects of pollutants on human and environmental health and an appreciation of the factors that shape our dependence on them.


Introductory biology and chemistry are required. Having completed a basic course in toxicology will be helpful but is not required.

Course File Server:

password: marinepollution

Course format and textbook:

The course format mixes reading of original literature with some material derived from several textbooks.  Most of the key information will come from lectures. The recommended textbooks are:

  1. Casarett and Doull’s essentials of toxicology, Second Edition, Klaasen and Watkins, editors. 2010. McGraw Hill.
  2. Ecological developmental biology: Integrating epigenetics medicine and evolution. Gilbert and Epel. 2009. Sinauer Press.

Other good books to check out are:

  1. Marine Pollution, by R.B. Clark, Oxford press, Fifth Edition. 2002.
  2. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, by Donald Crosby, Oxford press. 1998.
  3. Casarett and Doull’s Toxicology: the basic science of poisons. Curtis Klaasen editor Seventh edition. 2008.
  4. Fundamentals of Aquatic toxicology, Second edition. Gary Rand editor. 1995.


Mandatory Reading Assignments:

Throughout the course I will provide original literature or topics related to lecture. These are required reading. Everyone in the class is expected to have read the paper and be ready to discuss it.

Extra Credit Book Club:

For 10% extra credit: read a classic book on environmental science to read during the coming quarter. Give me a short written synopsis of the book and its impact on you. More instructions to follow in class.


30% Midterm Exam 1. 30% Midterm Exam2.  30% Final.

10% Participation and Attendance


March 29 – Introduction to the class: Scope of the chemical problem.

April 3 – A brief history of toxicology. Silent Spring, DDT.

April 10 – Environmental toxicology I. Chemodynamics.

April 12 – Environmental toxicology II. Environmental fate.

April 17 – Environmental toxicology III. Biotic and abiotic transformation.

April 19 – Environmental toxicology IV: Remediation of pollutants.

April 24 – Midterm 1

April 26- Biological toxicology I: Introduction to the biological effects of chemicals.

May 1 – Biological toxicology II: Cellular defenses

May 3 – Biological toxicology III: Organismal and behavioral adaptations to stress.

May 8- Biological toxicology IV: Cell and Developmental toxicology

May 10 – Biological toxicology V: Epigenetics and evolutionary consequences.

May 15 –  Midterm 2

May 17 – Guest Lecture: Dr. Martin Tressgurres Ocean Acidification

May 22 – Case studies: Scotch Guard in polar bears: Perfluorocarbons.

May 24 – Case studies: Carbon dioxide and ocean acidification.

May 29 – Case studies: Plastics, garbage and bisphenol-A.

May 31 – Case studies: Agriculture and aquaculture.

June 5 – Case studies: Metals, mercury and dirty sushi.

June 7  – Case studies: Oil: From the Valdez to the Deepwater Horizon.

Final TBD