Joint SETAC/ISES Conference, Milan
Written by Robert Coyle
The varied lineup of speakers and audience gave rise to some very fruitful discussions. Christine Norman (Director of Risk Assessment, within the Safe Environments Directorate of the Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch of Health Canada), presented some of the challenges facing her department as regulators. With over 4,300 substances to regulate and over 3,000 still outstanding, the task facing them is immense. Other challenges include the need for rapid exposure assessments, how to determine general population exposure from environmental media and food, and how to get reliable use pattern information. Christine stated that measuring general exposure from consumer products is key, and that dermal contact is the most important factor to consider. Clearly, a substance-by-substance approach is limited in the area of cumulative and aggregate exposure.
The event was extremely well attended by industry, regulators, and academics, all of whom exchanged ideas on the latest advances in human health exposure science. Creme was also invited to present a poster on two of our dietary exposure tools; the web-based software and consultancy service Creme Food, and the desktop-based FACET (Flavourings, Additives, and Food Contact Materials Exposure Task).
Measuring exposure to the thousands of chemicals that exist in consumer products is something that Creme has experience with in the FACET project, particularly in the area of food packaging. Modelling frameworks such as QSAR (Quantitative Structure Activity Relationships) present a viable screening method for substances, where the potential toxicity of a substance can be determined from its physicochemcial structure. When combined with migration modelling for substances in food packing and probabilistic dietary exposure assessments, FACET is a viable option for determining consumer exposure. Dermal exposure to consumer products is also a problem Creme will help to tackle with our upcoming Creme Cosmetics service, due for release later this year.
There were many other excellent presentations and discussions over the course of the few days of the conference. Christine Chaisson of the Lifeline Group emphasised how essential it is that exposure assessments be on a probabilistic basis. Chris Money of Exxon Mobil reviewed several software tools that have been developed for chemical exposure, while outlining the need to sustain the tools to avoid redundancy. Cathy Fehrenbacher of the US Environmental Protection Agency said that there is a need to make more predictive tools and models available, as data collection can be a burden on industry.
Exposure science is faced with many challenges when it comes to protecting human health in a world where environmental conditions and consumer products are constantly changing. The conference clearly demonstrated the benefit of idea sharing and cooperation, both across borders and amongst industry and government.