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Pure Appl. Chem., 2003, Vol. 75, No. 11-12, pp. 2575-2591

Risk perception: A chemical industry view of endocrine disruption in wildlife

S. Webb, R. Taalman, R. Becker, K. Onuma and Koichi Igarashi

CEFIC European Chemical Industry Council, Ave.E.Van Nieuwenhuyse 4, B-1160 Brussels, Belgium;

American Chemical Council, 1300 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22209,USA; Japanese Chemical Industry Association, Kazan Building 3-2-4 Kasumigaseki Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo 100-0013, Japan

Manufactured chemicals are essential to the vast array of goods and services that contribute to modern life. Their benefits are innumerable, and society is entirely dependent upon them. At the same time, there is an increasing awareness of the concept of environmental impacts. The challenge is to achieve the appropriate balance between the benefits and risks from chemicals, so that we all may enjoy the benefits of chemicals without significant detriment to current and future human and wildlife health. Ecological risk assessment is the mechanism that allows potential environmental chemical exposure to be benchmarked against hazardous properties so that risk is acceptable and environmental health is not impaired. Chemical management decisions based on such assessments are said to be risk-based. Within the context of environmental risk assessment practice for endocrine disruption, industry would support a position that:
  • endorsed the risk assessment process;
  • recognized that endocrine disruption is not an adverse effect per se, but rather a potential mechanism of action;
  • gave precedent to population-level effects instead of individual-level effects;
  • employed a tiered approach to hazard assessment; emphasized standardized and validated effects testing methodologies;
  • recognized that exposure per se does not necessarily constitute a risk;
  • considered relative potency (i.e., evaluation of the dose levels and mechanisms producing toxic adverse effects and determining whether the critical effect arises via an endocrine mechanism or another mechanism);
  • benchmarked risk against loss of benefits; and
  • evaluated risk within the context of overall risk from both natural and anthropogenic substances with common modes of action.
To help address uncertainty surrounding the risk from Endocrine Active Substances (EAS) to wildlife, the chemical industry -- via the Long-Range Research Initiative (LRI) -- has implemented a research program aimed at identifying and addressing knowledge gaps and establishing internationally harmonized testing methodologies in cooperation with other stakeholders. Details of individual projects within the current LRI research program are presented.