John Henderson Duffus
Bsc, PhD, Dsc, Cchem, FRSC, Cbiol, MIBiol.
Director of the Edinburgh Center for Toxicology

Research interests:

-All aspects of toxicology, especially those relating to carcinogenicity of inorganic substances.

-Metademography in epidemiology.

-Chemicals in occupational health and environmental health toxicity of chemicals in the natural environment.

- Education - especially methods of facilitating self learning curriculum design.

- Design and presentation of course content.


After a school career completed as Dux of Arbroath High School with school medals in English, Greek, Maths and Science, I opted to study Biochemistry at the University of Edinburgh. In 1959, I was awarded one of 4 Keasbey Memorial Bursaries for academic excellence. I graduated with BSc honours in Biochemistry in 1962 and went on to obtain my PhD in July 1965.

In 1967, after a period as Research Fellow at the University of Warwick, I came to the University of Edinburgh Department of Zoology to work on the cell cycle with Professor Murdoch Mitchison. I remained at the University of Edinburgh until 1970 when I obtained a Lectureship at The Heriot- Watt University. Initially I continued my research on the cell cycle and developed a hypothesis concerning the role of magnesium in control of cell division based on observations of the large flux that occurs at the time of division. My work on the cell cycle and other biological control systems was supported by a series of grants from the Science Research Council and was recognised by the award of the degree of DSc by Heriot-Watt University in 1981.

In 1973, I was asked to advise on prevention of toxic hazards for fish and human consumers from possible discharge of metals near fishing grounds. This led to increasing involvement in environmental toxicology and I developed a course for our students and wrote the textbook, "Environmental Toxicology". Favourable comment on the book brought me to the attention of the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe and I became their main consultant on Manpower Development in Toxicology under the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS). Further consultancies on this and on other aspects of chemical safety followed together with involvement in overseas programmes (with UNDP, UNEP, ILO, IRPTC etc.), especially in South East Asia - India, Thailand, and Indonesia, but also in Africa, Mexico, South America and the USSR. Nineteen ninety-two saw the publication of IPCS Training Module No. 1, the beginning of a modular teaching programme which I started developing for WHO in 1980. This module established the ground plan for succeeding modules as part of target curricula for toxicologists and environmental health personnel. In addition, my textbooks on toxicology and other subjects have now been translated into Bahasa Malaysia, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Some of the World Health Organization work has been in collaboration with the European Commission (EC) and I have just completed my third contract with EC Directorate General V on 'Assessment of Carcinogenicity of Industrial and Other Chemicals'. I was also responsible for organizing, with DGV and Eurometaux, the "International Seminar on Assessment of Carcinogenic Risk from Occupational Exposure to Inorganic substances" held in Luxembourg in October 1995. In 1989, in response to growing demand for work on toxicological problems, the Edinburgh Centre for Toxicology was founded with myself as Director and EC Contracts and my other activities are carried out through the Centre. The Centre has a small core of personnel and operates by putting together task groups for problems as they are presented. Because of my background, relating metals to fundamental biochemical processes, and that of chief medical consultant, Dr Draper, relating to physiological handling of metals, in addition to the chemical expertise of my deputy, Dr Park, we are particularly interested in problems related to inorganic substances and metal compounds.

I am a founder member of the Royal Society of Chemistry Toxicology Group, former chairman of the group, and now a member of the RSC Committee on Environment, Health and Safety and Vice Chairman of the Special Projects Core Committee. I was elected in 1991 as a Titular Member of The Commission on Toxicology of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and I am the United Kingdom representative on the Commission. I chaired the IUPAC Working Party preparing a Glossary for Chemists of Terms Used in Toxicology published in 1993. I am currently a member of the United Kingdom Department of the Environment 'Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances' and the Department of Health 'Health Advisory Group on Chemical Contamination Incidents'. I have contributed to the European Science Foundation Working Group on "Economic Analysis in Environmental Toxicology". I was a member of the WHO Task Force which prepared background documents for the Second European Conference on Environment and Health held in Helsinki in June 1994. I am currently preparing a course on 'Risk Assessment' for the United Nations Environment Programme International Register of Potentially Toxic Substances.

I have authored or contributed significantly to 126 major publications and received extensive financial support from UK Research Councils, the Commission of the European Communities, and other national and international organizations such as IPCS, UNEP and IRPTC.

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