We use the word toxics almost as often as the word cancer.
But when it comes to toxics, we’re not sure if we’ve ever used it correctly.
That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the journal Science, in which researchers found that toxics don’t fit neatly into the continuum of medical terms.
The study is the first to use the term toxics in an authoritative scientific context.
The researchers also discovered that scientists often use terms that are vague or undefined, which is a potential concern for health policy makers and practitioners.
“We think that this study provides a clear opportunity to clarify the scientific meaning of toxics,” said lead author Andrea Schreiber, a researcher at the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Oxford.
The term “toxics” was first coined by the English physician John Aubrey in the 1820s.
Aubrey’s first major work on toxics was a review of the medical literature that documented what he termed “the great and general malady” of tuberculosis.
The problem was that the symptoms of the disease were rarely well-defined and were frequently accompanied by a host of other symptoms.
“Tuberculosis was a major public health problem for centuries, yet we did not really understand it,” Aubrey wrote.
What’s in a name?
The word toxic is often used interchangeably with “toxin,” “toxic” and “cancer.”
But the Oxford researchers wanted to take a closer look at the meanings of these terms in order to find the most accurate and consistent terminology.
“Our study was aimed at creating a consensus among scientists on the meaning of the term ‘toxin,'” Schreib said.
“This was a question we wanted to answer for a scientific reason: why does the word cause so much confusion in the medical community?”
The researchers gathered a number of different scientific sources and examined the common use of the word in scientific texts, journals and textbooks.
The authors then compared the scientific terminology with the commonly used terms.
They found that the term “cancer” is used nearly 100 times more frequently than “toxicity.”
For example, the definition of a toxic chemical in the scientific literature is “a compound that can be toxic in its own right, but not to the point where it damages the organism in any way.”
“If you think about the word toxicity, you might think of it as the opposite of a chemical,” SchreIBeber said.
But, in fact, a toxic compound is toxic to itself.
The word toxic refers to a substance that is harmful to itself or others.
When a chemical such as paint is sprayed on your paintbrush, it can actually do harm to your brush, not the paintbrush itself.
“What’s the point of the chemical when it’s not toxic?” said Schreibaer.
“It’s a way of saying, ‘If I could make it so that it was so, then I wouldn’t have to do any harm.'”
SchreIber noted that in scientific journals, the term toxic can be used to refer to an object that causes harm to itself, such as a chemical.
But in everyday life, “toy” is often confused with a drug or an object used for recreational purposes.
In fact, the Oxford study found that over 90 percent of the scientific vocabulary used to describe the term is vague or unclear.
“When we used the word toxic to describe a substance, we were missing a whole set of things that could be toxic,” said Schreyib.
“That’s the whole point of using the term.”
What the researchers discovered was that most of the doctors who were using the scientific jargon for toxic substances also tended to use some kind of clinical reference.
“Doctors used to say, ‘It’s not a toxic substance,’ or ‘It doesn’t cause harm,’ or it’s an ‘antibiotic,'” SchreyIBeBER said.
The study provides important information on the use of toxic words, but it also highlights a lack of clarity around what makes a toxic thing.
“As a medical professional, you have to be clear about what you mean when you use the terms toxic or toxic,” SchREIBEBER said, adding that clinicians need to be aware that these terms could have a negative impact on patients.
“They’re all terms that you use for something that’s really a negative thing,” she said.
For example: “Toxic” can be applied to anything that can cause harm.
For instance, “Toxins are toxic, and that’s the thing that makes them dangerous,” SchriBIeBER explained.
The Oxford team’s findings also provide a new window into the meaning and use of some of the more familiar terms in medical jargon, such a “bacterial” or “molecular.”
“Toxicity is just one of those terms that we use in medical terminology,” SchreyBER said with a chuckle.
“But what we don