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JRC contribution: How 21st Century Toxicology can promote 'Green' Chemistry

News details
Oct 09, 2012

Research efforts to develop and validate new toxicity-testing and computational tools based on the mode of action of chemi­cals

Last year in Washington, the U.S. National Academy of Science held a meeting entitled  "Applying 21st Century Toxicology to Green Chemical and Material Design". Chemists, toxicologists, industry sustainability and executive officers, and other expert scientists and stakeholders discussed how breakthroughs in toxicol­ogy may promote advances in the growing field of green chemistry.

Sharon Munn, of the European Commission Joint Research Centre’s Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (JRC-IHCP), described how regulatory and research endeavours in the EU are being used to improve chemical risk assessment and decision-making. 

Munn highlighted multiple emerging technologies that are being explored in the EU to improve the human relevance and speed of toxicity testing.

She emphasized the benefits of using 21st century toxicology for both screening existing chemicals and products and designing new ones. The new tools may be particularly helpful when it is not permitted (i.e. for safety assessment of cosmetics) or practical to use animal data to identify chemicals that have a tendency to be persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic; to be very persistent and very bioaccumulative; to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, and reprotoxic; or to be endocrine disrupters.

EU scientists are working to identify “upstream” critical biochemical or cytological events that occur before empirically verifiable outcomes of exposure, such as developmental anomalies, reproductive impairment, and physical changes, including altera­tions in the size and histopathologic state of organs. A companion goal is to develop in vitro methods for measuring such critical events.

EU scientists are also investi­gating how to extrapolate from in vitro to in vivo dose–response relationships. They are trying to find ways of categorizing chemicals on the basis of structure–activity relationships. Another goal is to combine in vitro, in silico, and in vivo techniques.

Public–private partnerships and international collaborations are important for pooling knowl­edge and resources. For example, the IHCP is collaborating with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the ToxCast program to find the best new tests and methods.

Disclaimer by NAS concerning tapes or trascripts of public meetings: webcasts, audio/video tapes or transcripts of open meetings or sessions, workshops, symposia or public data-gathering meetings sponsored by the National Academies, which are made available on [the NAS] Web site, are not official reports of the National Academies. Opinions and statements included in such audio or video tapes, transcripts or webcasts of such events are solely those of the individual persons or participants, and are not necessarily adopted or endorsed or verified as accurate by the National Academies.

Photo: S. Munn's presentation at the meeting. Copyright © 2012 National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.