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Tox Town - Environmental health concerns and toxic chemicals where you live, work, and play
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Field Testing Tox Town-Based Curriculum

Discovering the Connection: Your Environment, Your Health is  the Tox Town-based science curriculum for middle school students that connects science and society.

The initial version of the curriculum was pilot-tested as an afterschool club at a suburban school in Maryland. Following the release, NLM recruited six additional schools around the country to beta-test the curriculum. The implementation is now in progress and will be completed in June 2013; the preliminary feedback is positive.

February 12, 2013

Tox Town Adds Methane to Chemical List

Methane, a colorless, odorless gas that is the primary component of natural gas, is a major greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
Did you know that emissions from methane represent approximately 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and is more powerful than carbon dioxide in absorbing and keeping heat in the atmosphere? You may be surprised to learn that a major source of methane comes from the livestock sector.
To learn more about methane and how it can affect your health, visit the new Tox Town methane page.

November 28, 2012

New Tox Town-Based Curriculum Units Available

Discovering the Connection: Your Environment, Your Health is an afterschool science club curriculum for middle school students. It can also be used in a science classroom or in an interdisciplinary program that connects science and society.

Lessons and activities of the curriculum combine research on the Tox Town Web site with hands-on experiments and communication and social action activities. The objective is to introduce middle school students to environmental health issues in their everyday lives, emphasizing the relevance of science to informed citizenship.

The topics of the six curriculum units are: water quality; air quality; chemicals in your home;  food safety; runoff, impervious surfaces, and smart development; and a debate on bottled water versus tap water in your school.

The curriculum was developed as collaboration between the National Library of Medicine (NLM), University of Maryland College of Education, and an inter-disciplinary group of middle school teachers. It is based on National Science Education Standards and is grounded in problem-based learning.


November 1, 2012

Tox Town Releases a New Drought Location Page

Did you experience drought conditions where you live this summer? Has your health been affected because of the drought? Do you wonder if droughts are related to climate change?  

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should visit Tox Town’s new Drought location page. Information is provided on why drought is a concern, how it is related to climate change, and possible health affects related to drought.

October 23, 2012

Tox Town Is Looking for Teachers to Promote Environmental Health Afterschool Club

The K-12 group of the National Library of Medicine (one of the 27 institutes of the National Institutes of Health), developed an afterschool science club curriculum for middle school students, called “Discovering the Connection: Your Environment, Your Health.” The curriculum combines research on the Tox Town Web site with hands-on experiments and communication and social action activities. The objective is to introduce middle school students to environmental health issues in their everyday life, stressing the relevance of science to informed citizenship.

The curriculum contains six units that each introduce one environmental health topic (e.g., Water, Air Quality, Chemicals in Your Home, Food Safety) and include three to four 50-60 minute lessons. All lessons come with teacher instructions and student handouts; the materials needed for hands-on experiments are simple items that can be found in a supermarket.

We are looking for several educators across the country who would partner with us by 1) conducting this club at their middle school, and 2) sharing their experience with colleagues via media and conference presentations. If interested, please, answer the following questions:

1. Your name

2. Name and location of your school

3. Grade level(s) and subject(s) you teach

4. Why are you interested in this opportunity? (one paragraph)

5. How could you share your club experience with other educators in your school, county, state, region? (one paragraph)

Please, email your answers and inquiries to Dr. Alla Keselman at

September 6, 2012

Teaching Environmental Health Science Using Tox Town

The International Journal of Science in Society recently published the article "Teaching Environmental Health Science for Informed Citizenship in the Science Classroom and Afterschool Clubs". This paper describes two collaborative efforts between the National Library of Medicine and the University of Maryland. Both projects centered around using Tox Town to teach students information seeking, evaluation, and argumentation skills and applying these skills to socio-scientific issues in students' daily lives.

  • The full article is available in The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 3, Issue 3, pages 31-44.

A second paper, Educating Young People about Environmental Health for Informed Social Action, describes National Libary of Medicine Web sites aiming to support environmental health education in greades 6 - 12. Tox Town is one of the educational resources highlighted.

  • The full article is available in Umwelt und Gesundheit Online, 2011; Volume 4, pages 1 - 8.

August 23, 2012

Tox Town Featured in The Science Teacher

The Summer 2012 issue of The Science Teacher, a publication of the National Science Teachers Association, features an article describing a sequence of lessons surrounding a mock legislative hearing on school water use and safety. The lessons, appropriate for biology, chemistry, or environmental science classes, use Tox Town as the central resource for students gathering information in preparation for the hearing.

Students relate to the issue of water safety, drinkability, and environmental impact of water. This lesson also emphasizes the importance of argumentation in scientific discourse and the role the teacher plays in supporting student argumentation.

The full article, "Making the Argument", is available in The Science Teacher, Summer 2012, pages 46 - 50.

August 1, 2012

Promotional Handout Available for the US Southwest Neighborhood

A promotional handout describing the new US Southwest neighborhood is available on the Clip Art and Promotional Materials page of Tox Town. This handout describes the partnership between Diné College and the National Library of Medicine that led to the creation of the US Southwest scene.

While some environmental health concerns in the US Southwest are the same as in any neighborhood, there are many issues that are specific to this region. Ten new locations featured in this neighborhood are listed. The US Southwest region is defined and answers to questions about uranium tailings, fracking, and private water wells are provided.

Tox  Town users can download and view the handout online or print and distribute the handout for promotional purposes.

April 10, 2012

New Uranium Page Added

Uranium is a naturally occurring radioactive element that is mined from the earth. The main use of uranium is to fuel nuclear power plants. The radioactive decay of uranium in rocks and soil forms radon, an invisible and odorless radioactive gas that is extremely toxic.

The new uranium page explains how uranium ore is mined and processed. Concentrated deposits of uranium exist in only a few places. In the U.S., there are an estimated 15,000 uranium mines in 14 states in the West and Southwest. Seventy-five percent of the mines are on federal and tribal lands.

Visit the uranium page to learn ways in which someone might be exposed to uranium and how uranium can affect ones health.


February 9, 2012

New US Southwest Neighborhood Added to Tox Town

Why shouldn't I drink from a water well in rural New Mexico? What is fracking? What are uranium tailings and how can they affect my health? Answers to these questions can be found in Tox Town's new US Southwest scene.

This scene, developed in conjunction with Diné College in New Mexico, highlights locations associated with environmental health concerns impacting the Navajo and others living in the Southwest region of the United States. New Tox Town locations found in this scene include:

  • Abandoned Mines
  • Coal-Fired Power Plants
  • Dust Storms
  • Hydraulic Fracturing
  • Irrigation Canals and Ditches
  • Oil and Gas Fields
  • Sheep Ranching
  • Uranium Tailings
  • Water Wells
  • Windmills

Regardless of where you live, you will definitely want to visit this new neighborhood and learn about possible environmental health risks in the US Southwest.

January 10, 2012

Tox Town Adds Stryene to Its Chemical Page

Styrene is widely used to make plastics, figerglass, rubber, and latex. It is used to make polystyrene plastics and resins. Polystyrene can be made into foam and rigid plastic products such as cups, plates, trays, utensils, packaging, and packing peanuts. Cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust contain styrene.

Visit the new chemical page to learn about possible exposure to styrene and how styrene can affect your health.

December 14, 2011

Funeral Home Location Added to Tox Town

Funeral home employees are exposed to a number of health and safety concerns. Visit the new location page to learn about possible employee exposure to various chemicals, including formaldehyde and solvents, and bloodborne pathogens.

October 5, 2011

Mining Location Added to the Town Scene

Mining is the extraction of mineral resources from the earth. Because there are many different types of mines, mining involves many health and safety concerns.

Visit the new Mining location page to learn about environmental health concerns, including possible risks and exposure to various chemical agents.

June 9, 2011

New Tox Town Middle School Curriculum Modules

The National Library of Medicine is working with middle school teachers to develop curriculum modules based on Tox Town for use in after school clubs focusing on environmental health. These modules can also be adapted by teachers for use in the middle school curriculum. Module topics will include:

• Air Quality
• Water Quality
• Impervious Surfaces
• Wetlands
• Chemicals under the Sink
• Food Safety
• Bottled Water versus Tap Water Debate

Curriculum modules are expected to be available on Tox Town’s Teacher Pages in late 2011.

June 9, 2011

Tox Town Featured at the U.S. Sciencefest on the Mall in Washington, DC October 24, 2010

The U.S. Sciencefest exposed children to the wonders of science by providing fun and interactive activities. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) created a carnival-like tent around the theme of toxicology and environmental health called "Toxic Adventures".

Activities highlighted Tox Town, ToxMystery, and TOXMAP. During the 4 hour exhibit, children played an electronic matching game linking chemicals to their descriptions, dug for products containing various "pretend" toxins, and played ball toss with Toxie - the - Cat.

November 4, 2010

Indoor Air Added to the Location Page

Most people in the United States spend a significant amount of time indoors. The indoor air we breathe can be more polluted than outdoor air.

Visit the new Indoor Air location page to learn about possible indoor air pollutants and how these pollutants can increase the risk of illness.

November 1, 2010

Tox Town Links to TOXMAP

TOXMAP, a Geographic Information System (GIS) from the National Library of Medicine, uses maps of the United States to help users visually explore data from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and Superfund Program.

Tox Town chemical pages link to TOXMAP only for those chemicals whose releases are reported to EPA. The chemical map shown in Tox Town lists both TRI and Superfund data when available.

September 30, 2010


Wildfires are unplanned, destructive fires aggravated by wind and drought conditions that spread out of control. Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and particulate materials and can affect lung function.

Visit the new location page to learn why wildfires and exposure to wildfire smoke are a public health concern.

August 19, 2010

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Added to Chemical List

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are highly toxic and persistent chemicals that travel globally and can cause cancer and birth defects. While many POPs are no longer produced in the United States, people can still be at risk from POPs that have persisted in the environment or been unintenionally released in the US or other countries.

Visit the POPs chemical page to learn more about exposure to POPs, and how they can affect your health.

August 19, 2010

Tox Town Adds Six New Chemicals

The following new chemical pages are now available in Tox Town:

Visit the individual pages to learn more about how you might be exposed to these chemicals and possible risks to your health.

July 21, 2010

New Flier about Environmental Health Risks on the Farm (PDF — 821 KB)

A flier describing environmental health risks found on the farm has been developed. While some environmental health concerns on a farm are the same as in any neighborhood, there are many issues that are specific to farm and rural health, such as toxic manure gases, mold from damp hay stored in barns, and agricultural chemicals. Information is presented in a question and answer format.

June 15, 2010

Crude Oil Is Added to the Chemical Page

In response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, crude oil has been added to the chemical page. Crude oil is an oily liquid found in underground reservoirs that is extracted and used to make fuel and other petroleum products. Visit this new chemical page to learn more about how you might be exposed and how crude oil can affect your health.

May 19, 2010

Bisphenol A (BPA) New on the Chemical Page

Public health concerns have been raised about bisphenol A (BPA) and possible related health effects. Bisphenol A is used to make lightweight, hard plastics and can be found in food and drink packaging as well as many consumer products, including baby bottles. BPA can leach into food and beverages that are stored in these consumer products.

Visit this new page to learn more about BPA exposure and possible health effects.

March 10, 2010

Nanoparticles and Nanotechnology

Tox Town adds nanoparticles to its list of over 30 chemicals. Nanotechnology involves working with nanoparticles, which are particles between 1 and 100 billionths of a meter in size.

The characteristics of nanoparticles may differ from those of larger particles with the same chemical composition. These different characteristics may have potential uses in the fields of electronics, medicine, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, energy, and environmental cleanup. However, the associated occupational and consumer health risks of pollution from nanoparticles are unknown.

For more information about nanoparticles and nanotechnology and where they can be found in your environment, visit Tox Town's newest chemical page.

February 22, 2010

Endocrine Disruptors Added to Tox Town's List of Chemicals

Tox Town added endocrine disruptors to its list of over 30 chemicals. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with human hormones. These chemicals are found in tiny amounts in products we use every day, such as plastics, cleaning products, bottles, cans, and medicines. Endocrine disruptors also can be found in our food and beverages. Exposure can occur through air, water, soil, and consumer products.

For more information about endocrine disruptors and what they are, how you can be exposed, and how they can affect your health, visit Tox Town's newest chemical page.

December 3, 2009

Tox Town Wins 2009 MERLOT Health Sciences Classics Award

MERLOT, an international initiative enabling faculty to integrate technology into higher education, identifies high quality Web-based, interactive teaching and learning materials and serves as a free "gateway" for these Web-based materials.

Each of the MERLOT Editorial Boards selects an outstanding resource from its discipline to receive the MERLOT Classics Award. On August 13, 2009, Tox Town was recognized as an exemplary online learning resource and is now recognized as such on the MERLOT Web site listing.

September 8, 2009

Cadmium Is Added to the Tox Town List of Chemicals

Why is cadmium an important addition? Cadmium is a naturally occurring metal used in batteries and found in cigarette smoke.  Research has recently linked cadmium exposure to lung disease. Studies suggest that people can be exposed to low levels of cadmium through second-hand smoke.

Visit the cadmium page to learn about::

• Cadmium and cadmium compounds;
• Routes of exposure from cadmium and its compounds; and
• Health effects from exposure.

February 17, 2009

Tox Town: Sightings Around Town

Tox Town continues to gain recognition as a useful and informative consumer-friendly Web site on environmental health risks in everyday life. In the first week of 2009, it was mentioned in two nationally recognized newspapers, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

In its January 7, 2009 edition, the Wall Street Journal mentioned Tox Town as a Web site worth exploring for "consumer-friendly information on toxic chemicals and environmental-health risks." For more details refer to:
What's New (Or Improved) In Health Sites [Jan 7, 2009]

Tox Town in the virtual world of Second Life also was mentioned in the Washington Post's article:
"O Brave New World that Has Such Avatars In it!" [January 4, 2009]

February 17, 2009

What Is Growing in Your Garden?

Houseplants and gardens are common in our homes, yards, and neighborhoods, but people may not be aware of the health hazards they can pose. Indoors and outdoors, touching or eating poisonous plants can cause allergic reactions, skin rashes, illnesses, and even death if ingested in high enough quantities.

Visit this new location page in the Town scene and learn about:

  • Poisonous plants such as poison ivy, oak, and sumac that are dangerous to touch;
  • Poisonous plants that are dangerous to eat; and
  • Impact of pesticides used in gardens and houseplants on individuals.

February 10, 2009

New Location Looks at Potential Health Impact of Climate Change

Climate change is a long-term shift in temperature, precipitation, and wind. Extreme warm or cold temperatures caused by climate change may aggravate several chronic diseases, including heart disease and respiratory diseases. Higher temperatures and more rainfall can increase diseases from bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

Information in this new location will teach you about:

  • Climate Change and how it differs from global warming;
  • Chemicals that make up greenhouse gases and how greenhouse gases relate to climate change;
  • Human activities that release pollution that contribute to climate change; and
  • Health effects of climate change.

 Visit any of the Tox Town neighborhoods to learn about climate change and how it can affect your health.


October 8, 2008

Interested in a career in environmental health science?

If the answer to this question is yes, then view the DVD from Eastern Kentucky University Media Resources on Careers in Environmental Health.

This DVD, listed on the Careers page of the For Teachers section, defines environmental health science and highlights possible career opportunites. The broad range of opportunities, from working for a public health department to employment in the cruise ship industry, is presented.

July 15, 2008

New from MedlinePlus:  Disaster Information Pages

Learn about man-made and natural disasters from the new topic pages available from MedlinePlus in both English and Spanish:

• Earthquakes   [Terremotos]
• Fires   [Incendios]  
• Floods   [Inundaciones]
• Hurricanes   [Huracanes]
• Radiation Emergencies   [Emergencias causadas por la radiación]
• Tornadoes   [Tornados]
• Tsunamis   [Tsunamis]
• Volcanoes   [Volcanes]
• Winter Weather Emergencies   [Emergencias causadas por el clima invernal]

These pages have replaced the MedlinePlus pages formerly titled Man-Made Disasters and Natural Disasters.

July 9, 2008

Tox Town Adds Salud Ambiental and Sustancias Quimicas Tóxicas to Its Vocabulary

Tox Town now offers an expanded Spanish-language version en español at  Visitors can learn about salud ambiental (environmental health) and sustancias quimicas tóxicas (toxic chemicals) in Spanish or English. Tox Town introduces environmental health concerns such as drinking water and air quality along with descriptions of over 30 toxic chemicals in these imaginary neighborhoods: City, Farm, Town, US-Mexico Border, and Port.

Tox Town en español identifies information in a subject area – environmental health and toxicology in the United States – that currently has few Spanish language Web resources. To supplement the limited resources in Spanish, nearly 100 pages of background information describing environmental health concerns were translated and reviewed by a team of bilingual health information specialists. 

Tox Town is ideal for supplementing high school and college classes in environmental science, earth science, forensics, and health. Also, students learning to read either English or Spanish may use Tox Town to improve language skills as they move back and forth between the Spanish and English text.

May 6, 2008

Animal Health and Human Health Issues Converge!

The Tox Town team has published an article in the September 2007 issue of The Wildlife Professional titled "Resources for Wildlife Professionals". This article uses case studies to discuss how wildlife professionals can use National Library of Medicine (NLM) Web resources — Tox Town, TOXNET, PubMed, and MedlinePlus — to obtain information on:

  • chronic wasting disease,
  • urban fish kills,
  • toxic chemical manufacturing and releases near public lands, and
  • occupational health risks for wildlife workers.

For these and many other topics, wildlife managers look to NLM and the National Institutes of Health for current research and information on the impact of the environment and toxic chemicals on both the health of wildlife and on their own occupational health.

November 30, 2007

Tox Town Celebrates Its 5th Birthday with a New Look

Tox Town's web site has a fresh, new, updated look. This version features a new home page and new header and footer across all pages. The text version and Spanish version pages have a very different look. See, for example, the text page on Acetone and the Spanish-language page on Acetona

Tox Town was launched October 4, 2002.

October 4, 2007

Podcast on Highway Pollution and Children’s Lungs Features Tox Town

The NLM "Director’s Comments" March 9 podcast describes a new study reporting that children who live near a highway experience lung impairments, which could result in life long health problems. The study was recently published in the online version of The Lancet.

The podcast continues, "To learn more about environmental health, we highly recommend you visit ‘Tox Town,’ will be surprised how much information about environmental health is at your fingertips." Also recommended are the Air Pollution and Contaminación del aire topic pages from MedlinePlus.

The weekly health update podcasts, presented by Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D., Director of the National Library of Medicine, are available at

March 12, 2007

Your Health and the Environment: Earth Day (PDF — 266 KB) Classroom Enrichment from the National Library of Medicine

One-page color handout suggests activities using NLM resources to learn about human health and the environment, pollution, and toxic chemicals. Features Tox Town, TOXMAP, and Household Products Database.

March 12, 2007

Tox Town receives World Wide Web Health Award.

Tox Town received a bronze category award from the World Wide Web Health Awards program.

January 3, 2007

New Port Neighborhood Highlights Coastal Environmental Health Concerns

Did you ever wonder about environmental health risks at the beach or in a coastal community? If so, visit Tox Town’s new Port neighborhood to learn about environmental health risks along the coast and in harbors.

Why do harmful algae blooms grow and how do they affect the fish and shellfish you cook for dinner? What happens to all of the trash and sewage on a cruise ship? How do toxic chemicals and paint used in ship repair and ship building get into the coastal waters and affect the community? How does fish farming affect the community? Answers to these and other questions can be found in the following new locations in the Port scene: algae blooms, a beach, a fish farm, shellfishing, a cruise ship, a marina, shipping facility, a shipyard, and coastal brownfields.

Other potential environmental health concerns include a wastewater treatment plant, cesspools, fuel pipelines, a nuclear power plant, septic systems, storms and floods, and industrial runoff.

This scene will give you something to think about the next time you take a trip to the coast or go swimming at the beach!

November 21, 2006

New tools for introducing Tox Town

A new 2-minute video and transcript (PDF — 56 KB) give an overview of Tox Town and its features. The video file size is 20 megabytes and it uses Windows Media Player.

Tox Town - A Resource for Teachers and Students includes 27 PowerPoint slides and a script (PDF — 62 KB) introducing Tox Town for classroom use.

For science teachers, there's also a new overview of NLMs classroom and homework Internet resources. Resources for Science Teachers - Classroom Resources from the National Library of Medicine includes 38 slides with a script (PDF — 125 KB) introducing NLM web resources useful in Biology, Chemistry, Genetics, Earth Science, and Environmental Science courses. It also includes resources on the history of medicine, health careers, and Spanish-language resources.

October 19, 2006

Voice of America has selected Tox Town as "Website of the Week".

The broadcast features Marti Szczur, Deputy Associate Director of Specialized Information Services, introducing Tox Town.

August 25, 2006

New: Resources for Science Teachers: Classroom Resources from the National Library of Medicine (PDF — 359 KB).

This one-page, two-sided color handout lists web resources for Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Health, and Genetics courses. Also includes career information and Spanish-language resources.

April 11, 2006

New Farm Scene Provides a Home for Rural Environmental Health Concerns

Visitors can explore the new Farm neighborhood to learn about the environmental health concerns of agricultural and rural communities. Many concerns are common to both the Farm and the other Tox Town scenes: the City, Town and US-Mexico Border. But farms also have unique issues with hazardous agricultural chemicals, toxic gases from animal waste, rural dumping, and farm safety. Farming is one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States. Because farm families usually live where they work, all family members are at increased risk of farm-related injury and illness.

The Farm features a shed, barn and silo, crop fields, large-scale feeding operation, landfill, agricultural runoff, farm pond, meat processing, tree farming and logging, off-road vehicles, and nearby urban sprawl. Each location lists toxic chemicals that might be found there and answers questions like "Why are farm ponds a concern?" and "What are feeding operations?"

The Clip Art & Publicity Materials page features Farm images suitable for web sites and publications.

January 9, 2006

What's New Archives

Last updated: July 16, 2008

Interactive Graphic Neighborhoods City Farm Town US Border Regions Port US Southwest