To understand and predict health risks posed by exposure to substances it is necessary to interpret both the toxic properties and the potential exposure to that substance:
Risk = Fn(Hazard, Exposure)
While standardised, internationally accepted methods are available to understand hazard and toxicity, standardised methods and tools to measure, describe or make accurate and robust exposure predictions are not so common. In addition, there is sometimes confusion and misunderstanding about what tools and data should be applied to predict exposures for specific circumstances, what the level of precision of these methods is, and in particular how to predict aggregate consumer exposure to a substance that might be contained in a number of consumer products.
This task force activity had two principle aims:
- Review the landscape of the various tools and methods available currently to estimate consumer exposures.
- By using case studies, the strengths and weaknesses of the various tools and methods for assessing consumer exposures to different classes of substances were examined. In particular, a focus on aggregate exposure was considered and various methodologies and data inputs were reviewed.
Based on these analyses the task force produced:
- A set of best practices guiding the use of existing tools that are best suited for specific applications
- A set of recommendations to reduce variability and improve quality of exposure predictions, and to broaden cooperation between industry, academics and the regulatory community to drive activities improving exposure quality.
A workshop was also organised involving experts from industry, academia and the regulatory community to review and discuss the task force output. A synopsis of the meeting together with recommendations for improving quality and reducing variability in consumer predictions are found in ECETOC Workshop Report no. 31: Advances in Consumer Exposure Science: Data, Modelling and Aggregate Exposure Assessment. 26th January 2016, Brussels. (available at http://bit.ly/ecetoc-wr31)
It is hoped that the task force report will be of use to both regulatory bodies and industry in providing guidance on the appropriate use of different exposure tools and data for different purposes. Additionally, the task force output should provide a path forward with regards to further research and data that can be gathered by the broader risk assessment community in order to facilitate better exposure assessments in the future.
The task force report has been published as ECETOC Technical Report no.126: Guidance for Effective Use of Human Exposure Data in Risk Assessment of Chemicals. The Executive Summary and free PDF of the report are available at http://bit.ly/ecetoc-tr126