Synergistic response describes a situation where one component is concentrated enough to cause toxic effect by itself but the presence of another causes a much greater effect than the combined effects of the individual components. Sometimes two substances may have effects which reinforce each other so much that the combined effect is more than the additive. For example, tobacco smoke in combination with asbestos dust can cause lung cancer in humans more readily than exposure to either the cigarette smoke or asbestos dust alone. In fact, it has been documented that smokers are 40 times more likely than nonsmokers to get lung cancer following exposure to asbestos dust. In this case, the response is greater than additive toxicity (2 + 2 = 6).
Another classical example of a synergistic effect is the formation of trihalomethane known to cause cancer in humans. Trihalomethane is a compound formed from chlorine used as disinfectants for microorganisms in water when it reacts with suspended particulates (solid). Other examples include the herbicide atrazine that has been found to produce synergistic toxicity in a binary mixture with methyl parathion.
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