Country Correspondents

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Overview (Visión general)

Toxicology has been a subject of little research in Ecuador, in some cases because of economic constraints and, limited trained personnel but also because of limited interest and application. In spite of that during the last 15 years, toxicology in Ecuador has developed due to the critical need to understand increasing occupational and environmental problems.

In 1941, the first step was taken by the Ecuadorian government with the creation of the National Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine "Leopoldo Izquieta Perez", as a scientific center ascribed to the Ministry of Public Health, whose aim is the promotion of scientific research to: a) prevent, diagnose and control infectious, endemic and epidemic diseases; b) develop technologies for the production of safer preventive products used in human and animal health; c) for the registry and sanitary control of drugs, biological products, food, hygienic products, cosmetics, pesticides and other products of general consumption and d) for training personnel.

During these early years, only isolated scientists, like Dr. Rodrigo Fierro and Dr. Plutarco Naranjo, worked in this field and they were pioneers, looking for information and articulating questions of national interest concerning health issues such as goiters and allergies.

As industrial development matured, in the 1970s, toxicants became a concern, but it took two decades to develop initial activities in this field. At the beginning of the 1980´s various official institutions tried to organize and oversee some basic labs. For example, the National Petroleum Industry (PETROECUADOR), built an important lab to deal with hydrocarbons and substances related to the oil industry and its impacts. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed this first lab and it took many years to construct a new one. Now, all the three oil refineries in Ecuador have their own labs. They are trying to improve their techniques and to train their personnel in the environmental aspects of the industry.

The need for trained personnel led the government to give the support to many professionals to travel to developed countries to advance their education, but also within Ecuador, some universities organized seminars, and courses to improve the situation. In parallel, some universities created basic labs set up for new research. The technology was not optimal, but it scientifically credible results were obtainable.

In Ecuador, poisoning incidents, according to statistics increase 20% in incidence a year (INHLIP-CIATOX, 2005) and are responsible for some 1,000 deaths a year (INHLIP-CIATOX, 2005). Among the causes of poisoning are violence, familiar disintegration, and depression, but all of them linked to voluntary poisoning. Other causes are unsafe conditions in the handling and use of chemicals at home, at work and in the general environment. Acute intoxications due to pesticides increased from 3.54/100.000 inhabitants in 1990 to 14.52/100.000 inhabitants in 2003 (Ministry of Public Health, National Department of Epidemiology, 2003), and in 2004, there 156 intoxications were reported in classifications X40-X49 of the CIE (International Classification of Diseases 10-WHO). This signifies a rate of 0.1/10.000 inhabitants.(Ministry of Public Health, Basic Health Indicators , Ecuador, 2005) .This information should be weighed carefully, though, because although the tracking system is improving the capacity to collect information, misclassification and lack of information from remote areas where the incidence may be greater is a distinct possibility.

Information from the Social Insurance Ecuadorian Institute, Ministry of Labor and Ministry of Environment is scarce. The private sector had minimal interest in toxicological questions issues and only within the past few years have private labs started providing services to identify pesticides or heavy metals in urine.

The Ministry of Agriculture has its own lab for identifying pesticides in soil and water, and there is a lab of the CEEA (Ecuadorian Commission of Nuclear Energy) that could also help in the identification of some toxic substances from agriculture or industry. But this information is not published.

There is clearly a need to include Toxicology as a subject in more Graduate Programs as well as to cover the increased demand of poisoned patients who are unable to get treatment unless they have access to hospitals major cities. Today we have as many as 200 professionals and technicians that can deal with toxicological emergencies at a basic level. Technology, in spite of several modern labs, is not quite state-of-the-art. One of the main problems is the lack of integration of information, training, and application of the knowledge and of encompassing multidisciplinary approach in the studies.

This affects has an even greater effect in tracking poisoned patients, since many go to private hospitals, and intoxications are not officially reported.

Recently, the creation of Toxicological Information Centers, such as the Toxicological Advisement and Information Center - CIATOX, formerly a unit of the National Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine "Leopoldo Izquieta Perez," has become one of the options to support and improve the treatment of poisoned patients, as well as to reduce risks associated with chemical substances and for data collection. Such centers, though, must be complemented with other activities and resources, as part of a systematic development of toxicology. This chapter presents the primary resources and tools now available to help develop toxicology for the benefit of communities and the environment in Ecuador.

The critical objective continues to be seeking the development of methods, techniques, studies and research seeking biological indicators to correlate with environmental measurements within a scientific design. The concept of exposure and its association with effects is lacking in the studies that some researchers are conducting in Ecuador.

Thus, we can say that the evolution of toxicology in Ecuador shows that there are many problems to be studied and solved. There is clearly an interest and many actors who could potentially participate. At the same time we need to organize a national system including stakeholders from governmental, private, and non governmental organizations, together with universities and scientific institutions, to assess the situation in Ecuador as a whole and to develop a new framework, for the future.

A version of this article was published in Information Resources in Toxicology, 4th Edition, HOMERO C. HARARI, RAÚL E. HARARI, RAMIRO I. LOPEZ, Copyright Elsevier (2009).

Lecciones Aprendidas: Hitos de la Toxicología

Milestones of Toxicology Poster (Ahora disponible en más de 12 idiomas)

The Milestones of Toxicology poster was created by Steven G. Gilbert and Toni Hayes in 2006 and translated into Spanish by Juliana DeCarvalho Anderson.

To open or download the Spanish Milestone poster click HERE

A clickable version of the Milestones of Toxicology poster with the underlying information in Spanish is now available HERE.







Poster Interactivo : Hitos históricos y descubrimientos que dieron forma a las Ciencias de la Toxicología. El poster fue creado por Steven G. Gilbert y Antoinette (Toni) Hayes (Traducido por Juliana P. De Carvalho)

Government Agencies


Non-Governmental Organizations (Organizaciones No-gubernamentales)


Universities (Universidades)


Professional Societies (Sociedades Profesionales)


Poison Control Centers

(Centros de Toxicologia)

  • Ecuadorian Commission of Atomic Energy (Comisión Ecuatoriana de Energía Atómica)
    Laboratorio de Ecotoxicología
    Sexto Piso - Edificio Matriz (Juan Larrea N15-36 y Riofrío, Quito - Ecuador)
    Teléfonos: (593 2) 254 - 5773 or (593 2) 254 - 5861 Ext. 26
  • National Council of Control of Psychotropic Substances (Consejo Nacional de Control de Sustancias Estupefacientes y Psicotrópicas)
    Secretario Ejecutivo del CONSEP
    General (SP) Enrique Montalvo Cozar
    Tel: (593 2) 2221-829
  • Red Cross - Ecuador (Cruz Roja Ecuatoriana)
    Antonio Elizalde E4-31 y Av. Gran Colombia (Edif.. Cruz Roja Ecuatoriana)
    Dora Sánchez de González
    Tel: (593 2) 2582479
  • Toxicology Center (Centro de Toxicología)
    (Hospital de Clínicas Pichincha. Centro Toxicológico (CENTOX))
    Quito, Ecuador
    Attn: Dr. Iván Cabezas - Director
    Tel: (593 2) 2998799 / 1800-CENTOX
  • Toxicology Information and Advisory Center (Centro de Información y Asesoría Toxicológica (CIATOX))
    (Ministerio de Salud Pública del Ecuador, Instituto Nacional de Higiene "Leopoldo Izquieta Pérez")
    Quito, Ecuador
    Attn: Dr. Marcelo Chiriboga, Director Instituto Nacional de Higiene "Leopoldo Izquieta Pérez"
    Dra. Consuelo Meneses, CIATOX
    Dra. Beatriz Vargas, Laboratorio de Toxicología
    Telefonos: (593 2) 290 - 5962 or (593 2) 256 - 5858 / 250 - 2058 Ext. 221
    Web site:


Miscellaneous Resources


Key Publications

  • Journals
    • Ecuador Review of Higiene and Tropical Medicine (La Revista Ecuatoriana de Higiene y Medicina Tropical)
      Publisher: Instituto Nacional de Higiene "Leopoldo Izquieta Pérez"
      Contact information:
    • Review of the Postgraduate Public Health Institute (Revista del Instituto de Postgrado de Salud Pública)
      Publisher: Revista del Instituto de Postgrado de Salud Pública
      Contact information:
    • Scientific Review, College of Physicians of Guayas [(Revista Cient
      ífica, Colegio de Médicos de   Guayas)|]
      Publisher: College of Physicians of Guayas
  • Journal Articles
    • Cantos G, López- P R, Lobato L, Romero M, Torres- S C.Nicolalde A. 1999. Lead, Genetics and Health (Plomo, Genética y Salud). Ed. Universitaria. Ecuador.
    • Cantos G, López- P R, Lobato L, Romero M, Torres- S C. 1998. Analysis of Chromosomal Damage on Lymphocytes of Ceramics Workers Exposed to Lead La Victoria. Cotopaxi-Ecuador. (Análisis del daño cromosómico en linfocitos de trabajadores de la cerámica expuestos al plomo La Victoria. Cotopaxi-Ecuador). Revista Mendeliana. 36-48.
    • Colosio C, Harari R, Birindelli S, Campo L, Fustinoni S, Harari H, Somaruga C, Tiramani M, Visentin S, Maroni M. Occupational exposure to fungicides in floriculture in Ecuador. G Ital Med Lav Ergon. 2003 Jul-Sep; 25 Suppl(3): 107-8.
    • Cullen MR, Harari R. Occupational Health Research in Developing Countries: The Experience in Ecuador. Int J Occup Environ Health. 1995 Jan; 1(1):39-46.
    • Gerhardsson L, Harari R, Schütz A, Skerfving S. 2002. Neurotoxic symptoms in mercury exposed gold miners and buyers. ICOH Abstracts Book. Brazil.
    • Grandjean P, Harari R, Barr D, Debes F.2006. Pesticide Exposure and Stunting as Independent Predictors of Neurobehavioral Deficits in Ecuadorian School Children. Pediatrics 2006; 117; 546-556.
    • Harari R, Freire Morales R, Harari H. Major concerns in developing countries: applications of the Precautionary Principle in Ecuador. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2004; 17(1): 187-91.
    • Harari R, Cullen MR. Childhood lead intoxication associated with manufacture of roof tiles and ceramics in the Ecuadorian Andes. Arch Environ Health. 1995 Sep-Oct; 50(5): 393.
    • Harari R, Forastiere F, Axelson O. Unacceptable "occupational" exposure to toxic agents among children in Ecuador. Am J Ind Med. 1997 Sep; 32(3): 185-9.
    • Harari H., Albuja G., Harari R. 2003. The Use of fluorescent tracer testing in Ecuadorian floriculture: an analysis of exposure by workers during in-field and greenhouse cultivation. Pesticide Safety News. Volume 7, Number 3, IV trimester.
    • Harari R, Herrera D, Parker J. Silicosis among gold miners in Ecuador: a present problem. Eur. J. Oncol., vol. 4, n. 5, pp. 553-555, 1999.
    • Hurtig AK, San Sebastian M. Incidence of childhood leukemia and oil exploitation in the Amazon basin of Ecuador. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2004 Jul-Sep; 10(3): 245-50.
    • Hurtig AK, San Sebastian M, Soto A, Shingre A, Zambrano D, Guerrero W. Pesticide use among farmers in the Amazon basin of Ecuador. Arch Environ Health. 2003 Apr; 58(4): 223-8.
    • Hurtig AK, San Sebastian M. Geographical differences in cancer incidence in the Amazon basin of Ecuador in relation to residence near oil fields. Int J Epidemiol. 2002 Oct; 31(5): 1021-7.
    • Paz-y-Mino C, Arevalo M, Sanchez ME, Leone PE. Chromosome and DNA damage analysis in individuals occupationally exposed to pesticides with relation to genetic polymorphism for CYP 1A1 gene in Ecuador. Mutat Res. 2004 Aug 8; 562(1-2): 77-89.
    • Paz-y-Mino C, Bustamante G, Sanchez ME, Leone PE. Cytogenetic monitoring in a population occupationally exposed to pesticides in Ecuador. Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Nov; 110(11): 1077-80.
    • San Sebastian M, Hurtig AK. Cancer among indigenous people in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador, 1985-2000. Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2004 Nov; 16(5): 328-33.
  • Monographs
    • Five years-intoxications in Eugenio Espejo Hospital. 2000. (Cinco años de intoxicaciones en el Hospital Eugenio Espejo, Consejo Editorial Hospital Eugenio Espejo. 2000.)
    • Situation of Intoxications in Ecuador. 2005. (Situación de Intoxicaciones en el Ecuador. INEC-MSP-INH. 2004 y 2005.)
    • Comba P, Harari R. 2004. Environment and Health: Environmental Epidemiology. (Ambiente y Salud: Epidemiología Ambiental). Istituto Superiore di Sanitá, IFA - Abya-Yala. Ecuador.)
    • Corral F, Cueva P, Yépez J. 2004. Cancer Epidemiology in Quito and others Ecuadorian Regions. National Cancer Registry, SOLCA Quito, SOLCA-MSP-INEC. Ecuador.
    • Harari R. 2004. Safety, Health and Environment in Flowerculture (Seguridad, Salud y Ambiente en la Floricultura). IFA-PROMSA.
    • Harari R. et al. 2002. Sanitary and Environmental Improvement in Flowerculture (Mejoramiento Ambiental y Sanitario en la Floricultura.) Corporación IFA-PROMSA. Ecuador.
    • IFA-INSTRUCT. 2000. The Relation between Community and Flower Production Company (La Relación entre Comunidad y Empresa Florícola: El Ambiente y la Salud.) Canadian International Development Agency. Ecuador.
    • Paz-y-Miño C, Creus A, Cabré O, Leone PE. 2004. Genetic, Toxicology and Carcinogenesis (Genética, Toxicología y Carcinogénesis). FUNDACYT-Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador. Ecuador.
    • Valencia C. 1998. Accidents, Traumatisms and Intoxications (Accidentes, Traumatismos e Intoxicaciones). AFEME.


Legal Links


About Ecuador


Multilateral Organization Contacts


Literature References from TOXLINE (Ecuador)

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