Final report of ECETOC trilogy on polymers presents seven case studies addressing different components of safety assessment

ECETOC publishes today the final part of its trilogy on polymer safety assessment. Technical Report (TR) 133-3, Case Studies Putting the ECETOC Conceptual Framework for

Polymer Risk Assessment (CF4Polymers) into Practice presents a set of real-life examples addressing the components of polymer safety assessment.

ECETOC’s Polymers Task Force (TF) was established in 2018 and brought together specialists of polymer chemistry, toxicologists, ecotoxicologists and environmental fate modelers.

Its first report, in 2019, presented the ECETOC Conceptual Framework for Polymer Risk Assessment (CF4Polymers). Following this, in a second report, the Task Force reviewed the applicability of tools, test methods and models for polymer risk assessment.

The seven case studies discussed in this final report further evaluate the usefulness of the CF4Polymers for assessing the safety of different types of polymers, as well as the tools, methods and models presented in the second report.

The case studies are not intended to document a comprehensive risk assessment for any specific polymer. Rather, the Task Force aimed at evaluating the scientific usefulness and comprehensiveness of the process by collating publicly available data and unpublished data and then applying them to the eight steps of the CF4Polymers. The examples cover different types of polymers and different types of intended uses.

Commenting on the report, ECETOC Secretary General, Olivier De Matos said: “Clearly, the seven case studies only cover a small fraction of the seemingly infinite world of polymers. Nonetheless, they cover a broad spectrum of polymer chemistries, including polymers that are thought to have some hazardous properties, as well as those that do not. Generally, these case studies confirm the value of the eight steps of the CF4Polymers for assessing the hazard and risk of a diverse spectrum of polymers.”

He continued: “Overall, our report demonstrates that there is no ‘one size fits all’ polymer hazard and risk assessment process of polymers. In the same way, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to determine if any given tool, test method or model is applicable for the assessment of all polymers.”

Polymers cover a broad spectrum of generally very large natural and synthetic molecules, including cellulose, waxes, and resins. They are also constituents of plastics and play essential and ubiquitous roles in everyday life.

Since many polymers are too large to be taken up into the bodies of humans or other animals, they have generally been considered to be safer than other chemicals. As a result, they are currently exempted from registration under the REACH Regulation in the European Union. However, this approach is coming under increased scrutiny, particularly as polymers are used in large quantities and can persist in the environment.

The full version of “Case Studies Putting the ECETOC Conceptual Framework for Polymer Risk Assessment (CF4Polymers) into Practice”, as well as the previous publications and any  can be found here.