The fifth LRI workshop, held November 19-20 in Brussels, was the platform for representatives of the industry, academia, European institutions and NGOs to discover the major advances made by the programme over the last four years. LRI representatives and independent researchers demonstrated the value of the projects which are coming to fruition at the end of this first cycle of the programme, but also made frank recommendations about future directions.
“LRI is an immensely important voluntary programme of the industry to demonstrate our willingness and potential to address issues independently and inventively,” said Alain Perroy, Cefic Director General, when addressing the audience at the inaugural session of the workshop. He encouraged participants to take action upon the results of this research to build consensus and establish recognised methodologies.
External Science Advisory Panel Chair Peter Calow provided a positive review of the programme, deploring a trend where policy and regulations are increasingly based on less relevant science. This, he says, means LRI will need to demonstrate that improved understanding based on hard evidence is the best base for policy development. He also stressed that LRI will need to ensure the programme is increasingly cost effective, and that “you’re telling people about what you do”. Communication, he said, is key to the programme’s long-term success.
Calow also announced the launch of the LRI Innovative Science Award, which will be presented in conjunction with Eurotox to an early career European scientist who proposes novel interdisciplinary research in the field of toxicology. The €100k award is aimed at supporting creative new research, and will particularly emphasise the need to address the inter-disciplinary interfaces.
Scientific presentations made during the following day of the workshop demonstrated the programme’s success in delivering answers to questions on the role and fate of chemicals. An epidemiological study evaluating potential links between exposure to endocrine disrupters and an increased incidence in male reproductive system abnormalities concluded that no relation could be made between maternal exposure to endocrine disrupters and these anomalies, while other factors such as maternal age, smoking and paternal job function were linked to the conditions.
In another presentation, Willie Owens of the OECD highly praised the industry’s participation, through LRI, in the validation of three assays which enable the rapid detection of endocrine disruption in chemicals. The EXPOLIS project, which surveyed air exposure distributions within adult urban populations in Europe, determined that the home environment plays an equally important role in human exposure patterns, and that these factors should be considered in health risk assessments.
A study on assessing chemicals’ persistency conducted under the LRI environmental project helped define persistence and the factors that affect the persistence of chemicals. It also provided relevant information to help develop better ways of measuring the fate of chemicals in the environment, which has attracted support from government and environment regulators.
A suite of four environmental models were also presented at the workshop. These computer models, which provide reliable tools to predict the fate of chemicals in the environment, are designed to be easily incorporated in risk assessment tests under policies such as REACH or the Water Framework Directive.
Some of the key points of discussion during the workshop were on forward-looking topics such as Quantity Structure-Activity Relationships (QSARs) and their application in regulatory risk assessment, children’s health in the context of the European Environment and Health Strategy (SCALE), and alternatives to animal testing with the creation of a new strategy group within LRI to evaluate existing alternatives to safety risk assessment and make recommendations for the development of additional methods. Members of ESAP also presented a discussion on the communications needs of the programme, putting forth a proposal to initiate a workshop on risk communication to identify issues in risk communication and develop suggested research proposals on the topic.
As the meeting drew to a close, a long list of opportunities for future LRI directions was drawn, which the LRI Planning Group will be prioritizing over the next few months to set strategic objectives for its second cycle.
Please have a look at the full report in PDF format (274 ko).