Agencies Focus in 2017 on New Ways to Predict Chemical Harms

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By Pat Rizzuto

A report advising federal agencies about ways they could use automated, computer-modeled and other new ways to predict chemical toxicity and exposure will be released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Jan. 5, the academies announced Dec. 29.

Chemical and other manufacturers are interested in new chemical screening approaches, because they can offer a quick way to evaluate many different chemicals prior to development . These methods also can provide a scientific justification to apply data from one chemical to another similar compound, saving money and animal lives lost from redundant tests.

Emerging chemical screening tools include computer models that predict how diverse chemical structures would move through, interact with, and move out of the body; automated cellular, genetic, metabolic and other tests; measurements of chemicals in human urine or other biological samples; and mining data about which chemicals are in different types of consumer products.

Upcoming Webinars

Jonathan Samet, a pulmonary physician and epidemiologist teaching at the University of Southern California who chaired the National Academies’ committee that prepared the forthcoming report, “Incorporating 21st Century Science Advances into Risk-Based Evaluations,” will discuss the panel’s advice during a Jan. 6 webinar.

The Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program requested the report.

The agencies sought advice on how to integrate the results of new chemical screening technologies into traditional human health risk assessments.

They also asked the academies’ panel to offer advice on ways they could clearly explain the data to regulators, communities, consumers and other interested parties.

In addition to the report, the National Toxicology Program and an interagency committee announced in the Dec. 29 Federal Register webinars they’ll host in the new year addressing different aspects of emerging toxicity tests.

The interagency committee’s Jan. 24 webinar will discuss new sources of chemical toxicity information generally and limits to its use (81 Fed. Reg. 96,025).

The toxicology program’s webinar series will focus on improving data generated using zebrafish, a rapid-growing, tiny fish that can be used to detect whether a chemical affects the fish’s development (81 Fed. Reg. 96,024).

Future of Chemical Safety Analyses

The Environmental Protection Agency welcomes emerging chemical screening technologies, Jim Jones, outgoing assistant administrator of chemical safety and pollution prevention told Bloomberg BNA in a recent interview.

The approaches “aren’t mature by any stretch, but that’s where the future is,” said Jones, who will depart with the Obama administration.

The EPA’s Pesticides Office recently illustrated the agency’s interest in new chemical evaluation methods by announcing Dec. 20 a voluntary, pilot initiative aimed at eliminating experiments in which laboratory animals are exposed to high concentrations of pesticide formulations for short durations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington, D.C. at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at

For More Information

Information on the National Academies forthcoming report and a link to register for its Jan. 6 webinar is available at on the interagency committee webinar on 21st century toxicity testing are available at on the National Toxicology Program's webinar series on zebrafish tests are available at EPA Pesticide Program's announcement of its voluntary pilot is available at

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