February 9, 2016 by Melanie Gross
I attended a SETAC Pellston Workshop™ on Environmental Hazard and Risk Assessment Approaches for Endocrine Active Chemicals last week. There is currently ongoing scientific and political debate as to whether endocrine disrupting chemicals can undergo risk assessment, or whether they form a chemical group of special concern that should be regulated via hazard assessment only (e.g. like PBTs). The objective of this workshop was to discuss the underlying issues and to provide guidance on whether hazard-based or risk-based approaches should be selected in any given case. An executive summary of the workshop was agreed on the final day by all participants. The publications committee for the workshop will also be writing an article covering the workshop for SETAC Globe and for submission to the News section of Chemical Watch.
The workshop attendants were initially divided into six case study work groups, each looking at a data-rich suspected or known endocrine disrupter. wca conducted the literature searches for the workshop. Each case study group went through the process of selecting studies for review, assessing the data for reliability and conducting a weight of evidence evaluation. The case studies were not intended to be comprehensive safety evaluations, but rather a process to identify key issues in the assessment of potential endocrine disrupters. The work on the case studies was conducted prior to the workshop. On the first day of the workshop, these case studies were finalised and each group highlighted issues encountered during the process that were relevant to the hazard versus risk assessment of the substances. We were then reorganised into four new groups to work on these cross-cutting issues for the remainder of the workshop.
The output of the workshop will be a series of five papers, one main over-arching synthesis paper and four cross-cutting papers. It is intended that these papers will be published in a special issue of Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management (IEAM), or they may be published in IEAM and ET&C and then brought together on a special SETAC website.
Most groups completed their first drafts at the workshop, with a deadline of March 11 for final drafts to be submitted to the Steering Committee. The original case studies will form supplemental material to the overarching synthesis paper or the cross-cutting papers, as appropriate.
Poster corners were reserved at SETAC Nantes for the output of this workshop. Posters will be prepared to cover the topics of the overarching synthesis paper and each of the cross-cutting issues.
Overall, the workshop went rather smoothly and there was less contention than I thought there would be. The overall conclusion of the workshop was that if environmental exposure, effects on relevant taxa/life-stages, delayed effects and dose/concentration-response relationships are adequately characterised, then conducting an environmental risk assessment of endocrine disrupting substances is scientifically sound.