The aim of the Task Force was to investigate the applicability of the EFSA framework for developing specific protection goals for environmental risk assessment of pesticides (EFSA, 2010) to a wider range of chemicals. The EFSA approach, as described in Section 1.4.2 is based on a structured framework for identifying which ecosystem services might be affected by chemicals, using this assessment for setting specific protection goals and subsequently informing the scope and needs of risk assessment.
The Task Force work programme was organised into 3 phases:
Phase 1 – Develop a Framework for the chemical industry applicable to all sectors by considering the following:
- Description of key exposure scenarios and ecosystems including continuous and intermittent exposures, seasonality in receiving environments, spatial differences and scales.
- Identification of the main stressors driving ecological status.
- Establishment of current and potential uses of the environment in terms of ecosystem services. What does the local society use?
- Definition of spatially explicit protection goals. Use case examples to exemplify, e.g. direct discharge of untreated sewage and no-impact scenarios for down the drain chemicals in different regions. Prioritise / select case examples for phase 2.
- Identification of key service-providing units. What are their attributes / dimensions?
Phase 2 – Case studies to show how the framework would be used:
- Receiving environments to include freshwater, marine, soil.
- Exposure scenarios to include down the drain (pharmaceuticals, home and personal care products representing constant exposure), episodic exposure in terrestrial and aquatic environments (pesticides), intermediate exposure scenarios (biocides), multiple sources of exposure from industry value chains (e.g. oil and/or mining companies).
- Also consider multiple stressors to explore relative contributions of chemicals to overall ecosystem stress.
Phase 3 – Recommendations on how Risk Assessments Schemes need to be evolved:
- There is scope to incorporate greater ecological relevance in risk assessment in order to achieve protection goals, e.g. population metrics, community structure. If the ecotoxicological community is about to develop more ecologically relevant paradigms for chemical risk assessment, we should combine the approach with consideration of the ecosystem services we wish to protect.
The Task Force adopted this phased approach and considered most of the work programme listed above. Notable deviations and omissions include the following:
- A pesticide focused case example was not developed since EFSA have addressed this chemical sector.
- A case example with a metals focus was initiated but dropped before completion due to resource constraints of the relevant Task Force member.
- A case study addressing a chemical value chain was not developed to keep the work load manageable.
- Multiple stressors were not fully explored although certain aspects of chemical mixtures were considered.