Improving risk assessment and management of chemicals through trans-disciplinary collaboration
Chaired by Karel De Schamphelaere (Ghent University, BE), Ilse Schoeters (Rio Tinto, UK) and Gertie Arts (Wageningen UR, NL).
Society is highly dependent on chemicals, in industry, in daily life, in health care, in food production and so forth. When human or environmental exposure to chemicals cannot be ruled out, their safety must be demonstrated according to regulatory frameworks. A wide variety of risk assessment, risk management, and authorization schemes is in place to achieve this. These schemes involve ecotoxicity testing (including animal testing), which allows to considers possible effects at short and medium time scales and on indicator species. Studies at higher levels of organization (e.g. experimental ecosystems) can be of great value at later stages when triggered by the results of species-level testing. In this context, the development of tools and standardization that support the extrapolations from short to long term risks and from lower to higher levels of biological organization are still needed. Yet, science is available to efficiently start tackling longer time scales (evolutionary, multigenerational) and higher levels of complexity (populations, communities, ecosystems), for instance through extrapolation across biological and time-scales using advanced molecular or modeling techniques. These tools could also aid in reduced testing needs and replacing animal testing. In theory, it should be possible to weigh the benefits of chemicals against its adverse effects already in the design stage of new chemicals (green chemistry and predictive toxicology; integration with the ecosystem services approach; adoption of life cycle thinking in the design of new chemicals, processes and products). Given the complexity of stressors (chemical, biological, physical) encountered in the environment, the key to successful and efficient risk assessment schemes will hinge upon inter- and trans-disciplinary collaboration between environmental and human toxicologists and chemists on the one hand and scientists from disciplines as diverse as conservation biology, ecology, human health, engineering, sociology, law, and economy. The SETAC AM 2017 meeting will be a meeting place where topics along these and related lines will be presented and debated among academia, business/industry and government representatives with various backgrounds to enable inter- and trans-disciplinary networking and collaborations.