Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Has Toxicity Testing Moved into the 21st Century? a Survey and Analysis of Perceptions in the Field of Toxicology

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Has Toxicity Testing Moved into the 21st Century? a Survey and Analysis of Perceptions in the Field of Toxicology

Article excerpt

Introduction

Toxicological assessment is central to ensuring safety and protection from potentially dangerous substances. Yet, there is limited toxicological information available for thousands of chemicals currently present in consumer products, industrial processes, food, and the environment (Gomez 2013; Neltner et al. 2013; Stephenson 2009; Tice et al. 2013). Conventional testing relies mainly on whole-animal studies--dosing animals, usually mammals, with a compound and comparing health end points with a control group (National Research Council 2007). However, this approach has been criticized for being slow and expensive, for failing to evaluate all critical end points and life stages (Tice et al. 2013), for inaccurately predicting human health impacts because of species-specific responses to compounds (Leist and Hartung 2013), and for heavy animal use (Tice et al. 2013). These limitations have led the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), as well as governmental agencies, scientists, and stakeholders across the globe, to call for a rethinking of chemical safety evaluation (Judson et al. 2009; National Research Council 2007).

The demand for accurate and efficient toxicology testing, and the advent of new techniques in molecular and computational biology, spurred the development of alternative testing strategies (ATS). These are primarily in vitro and in silico methodologies that evaluate changes in biological processes at the molecular, cellular, and tissue levels. For example, high-throughput screening (HTS) approaches use advanced robotics and automation to test hundreds to thousands of samples at a time (National Research Council 2007). Read-across and quantitative structure-activity relationship model (QSAR) approaches can be used to estimate the toxicity of data-poor chemicals based on data from similar chemicals (National Research Council 2007). Such a combination of approaches has recently been evaluated and was deemed acceptable by the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a valuable alternative to several Tier 1 assays for chemicals with estrogen activity (Browne et al. 2015). However, the initial vision put forth in the NAS report was also met with some reticence and pessimism with regard to the challenges that would need to be overcome for its implementation (Andersen and Krewski 2010). Furthermore, a decade after the NAS acknowledged the transformational role ATS could play in risk management, little is known about how widespread the use of ATS is and what could be done to accelerate its acceptance.

We addressed this gap by conducting a survey of scientists and nonscientists whose training and/or occupation reside in, or are closely linked with, the field of toxicology. The survey aimed to answer three main questions: a) What is the current degree of acceptance of ATS? b) What are the barriers to the widespread adoption of ATS? c) What factors promote their adoption? We developed the survey questions by drawing upon a literature review and upon 19 semistructured interviews of experts from industry, government, nongovernmental organizations, and academia in the United States and Europe. The online questionnaire, disseminated through toxicological professional societies and trade groups, was completed by 1,381 respondents whose responses provided information on their perceptions of the use and utility of ATS for a range of applications and settings.

To our knowledge, this is the first comprehensive summary of toxicologists' opinions about the state and utility of alternative toxicity testing since the NAS issued a 2007 report calling for a paradigm shift in toxicology (National Research Council 2007). We report survey findings regarding the nature and scope of ATS use within private businesses and public agencies, and respondents' perceptions of the scientific and sociolegal barriers to and drivers of broader adoption. We conclude with a discussion of the likely impact of recent reforms of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act on the adoption of ATS for regulatory purposes. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.