Chemicals are part of the solution for a sustainable and circular future. But what is the future of the science behind chemicals safety? What will the requirements be for risk assessment and risk management to support climate neutrality, green and sustainable chemicals? “By 2035, the concept of chemicals safety will go beyond toxicity in isolation, strengthening the role of exposure science for both raw and recycled materials, products and chemical uses, as well as incorporate elements of climate neutrality and sustainable resource use assessments”, said Dr Henrik Søren Larsen, Head of Department, Ministry of Environment and Food, Denmark, at the opening of the 22nd Annual Cefic-LRI Workshop in November 2021.
For the near future, it is important to adopt an approach of human and environmental health protection by expanding the scope of chemicals safety; getting the data right that match hazard criteria and preventively identify chemicals of concern throughout the whole life cycle; enhancing the use of exposure information and knowledge (e.g. data, tools, and methods) across chemicals (policy) domains; applying preventive risk management as far as possible; and again, defining sustainability for chemicals with criteria and standards for chemicals, materials and products.
Chemicals industry representatives underlined the importance to involve and enhance knowledge within the entire supply and value chain on the functioning of waste and recycling. To meet the ambitions of the EU Green Deal, the chemicals industry sees the need for a clear, workable definition and agreed respective technical criteria of Safe and Sustainable-by-Design and its understanding of innovation and hazard therein.
Current chemical safety assessment such as under REACH and other regulations heavily rely on animal testing methods and to a lesser extent on non-animal testing methods (NAMs) such as computational and in vitro models. Computational assessments commonly incorporate many assumptions making it of utmost importance to produce sufficient realistic data to validate the outcomes. Enhancing the role of measuring real human and environmental exposures and the development and regulatory application of innovative NAMs are therefore key to enhance predictive exposure methods which accelerate transitions towards safe and climate neutral chemicals. With this it should not be forgotten that chemicals are manufactured and marketed to be safe in their applications, providing grounds to map the chemical-driven benefits based on realistic exposure data.
Read up on the latest advances in industry-funded research in human health, exposure and environmental risk assessment of chemicals here, as presented at the Workshop.
** The current article reflects on some aspects of an open-ended brainstorming discussion held during the 22nd Annual Cefic-LRI Workshop in November 2021.