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MASOT Develops Inspector Tox Educational Program

By Diane Hardej, MASOT Chair, Education and Outreach Committee

Dr. Anthony Schatz
as Inspector Tox

Inspector Tox is a program that was developed by MASOT’s Education and Outreach Committee as a means of introducing the basic concepts of toxicology to school-aged children. The narrator of the program, Inspector Tox, is an investigator of harmful or toxic events and is portrayed as a Sherlock Holmes type character, complete with deerstalker hat and magnifying glass. The program opens with Inspector Tox giving the audience some information on what toxicology entails, what types of substances are viewed as toxic, how toxicity can be measured, and government agencies that assist in setting limits for safety of the products we use. The introduction is intended to be fully interactive to determine how knowledgeable the audience is of toxic substances in our environment and to encourage responses as the program progresses.

Diane Hardej mixes bleach
and ammonia to make a
“super cleaner.”

The introduction leads into “toxic scenes” set in the house, backyard, and at the beach. During the scenes, the actors perform activities, both normal and potentially harmful. The audience is asked to write down the activities they feel are relatively safe and those that appear dangerous. In the toxic scene that takes place in the house, for example, the actors mix bleach and ammonia, share prescription painkillers, and put rat poison on the floor near the dog’s bowl, in addition to performing normal activities such as housekeeping. The various scenes are devised to introduce a mix of potentially toxic compounds including chemicals (pesticides), natural toxins (bee sting, poison ivy), UV radiation (sunlight), social/behavioral toxicants (alcohol, cigarette smoking, and poor diet), and even includes components that the audience might not initially recognize as toxic, such as food allergies (peanuts) and dust. After each is completed, Inspector Tox makes an appearance to discuss the potentially harmful activities and to answer any questions that might arise.

The first presentation of Inspector Tox was given on August 12, 2010, on the campus of St. John’s University for the After School All Stars Program. The All Stars Program provides opportunities to children that represent minorities and attend schools in low income and high risk areas. Participation in the program is based on their good behavior and attendance during the school year. The first showing of Inspector Tox was presented to roughly 80 of the All Star participants ranging from age 11–14 years old and was well received by the children. This was a fun, educational experience for all.

Graduate Students, Jessica Placido, Nicole Olgun, and Sandy Chen hold posters provided by the NYC Poison Control Center

The Inspector Tox program was conceived by the Chair of the Education and Outreach Committee Diane Hardej, St. John’s University, College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions, Jamaica, New York. The Committee, which is composed of graduate students, post grads, and toxicologists in industry, academia, and government, offered expert opinion to develop the introduction and dialog for the toxic scenes to include chemical and biological agents that are relevant to current toxicology issues. NYC Poison Control Center graciously donated materials, pamphlets, booklets, and posters to hand out to the audience after the show. There are plans to expand this program to schools across the country through the SOT Regional Chapters and National SOT Education and Outreach.

I would like to thank the Education and Outreach Committee Members that worked on this program:
Diane Hardej (Committee Chair), Tony Schatz, Gloria Post, Todd Davidson, Judith T. Zelikoff, Dave Cragin, Jessica Placido, and Nicole Olgun.

A special thanks to the St. John’s folks that helped to make this happen:
Mabel Abraham, Mumtaz Akhtar, Angela Alberti, Kelly Almond, Sandy Chen, Vanessa Devore, Brittany Elkin, Velda Glover, Lisa Hoffman, Puneet Vij, Kiran Khokar, Prathamesh Mahajan, Ritu Malla, O’Brien Morancy, Natalie Orie, Yamine Richard, Shalini Roy, Sung Joo Ryu, and Shirley Zhao.

Drs. Louis Trombetta, Sue Ford, Lin Mantell, Marc Gillespie, Jennifer Miranda-Velazquez and Mr. Alan Fields, Program Director and Ms. Jessica Stevens, Program Coordinator from the After School All-Stars Program. Also, thanks goes to those who fed us and kept us hydrated: Marie DiMaggio, Suzette Weiss, Mary Anne Sammarco, and Cassandra Edouard.

Inspector Tox Resources

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