same for each chemical; hence, the slopes of the concentration-response functions of all the chemicals will be identical.
In practice, the slopes of the concentration-response functions will seldom be identical even for chemicals that have the same mechanism of action. Similarly, because of random variability, repeated bioassays of the same chemical on the same species by the same investigators will seldom have identical slopes. In such cases, methods are available for testing the significance of the differences between slopes and for constraining slopes to be parallel (Finney 1971). If the slopes of the concentration-response curves are identical (or can be constrained to be so without a significant lack of fit), the selection of the reference chemical for defining relative potency is incidental. That is, changing the reference chemical will change the relative potency values but will have no effect on the estimate of the concentration-response curve for the mixture.
In some cases, chemicals with the same mechanism of action at the receptor level can differ from each other in other ways (for example, differences in metabolic pathways) that can lead to differences in slopes in whole-animal studies. If the slopes of chemicals that act (or presumably act) similarly do differ, relative potency will vary with the magnitude of the response, and the application of concentration addition will be inappropriate.
Concentration addition is attractive because it is mathematically simple and is often viewed as a conservative assumption. As discussed below, concentration addition will typically predict a response rate that is equal to or higher than any form of response addition; it is conservative in this sense. Some groups have recommended concentration-addition as a general default method for mixture risk assessment, particularly for screening-level assessments (IPCS 2009; Kortenkamp et al. 2012). The EPA guidance for mixture risk assessment, however, recommends that concentration addition be applied only to groups of similarly acting chemicals (EPA 2000, p. 11). The committee concludes that the utility of concentration addition as a predictive and unbiased model for assessing joint action depends heavily on the underlying assumptions of concentration addition—similar mechanisms of action and parallel slopes. If those conditions are met, relative potency will be constant for all concentrations, so relative potency can be used to convert the concentration of one chemical into an equivalent concentration of another chemical. That conversion can be used to add concentrations correctly. If the underlying assumptions of concentration addition are violated, however, there is no reason to expect its application to be predictive. Application of concentration addition in those cases might lead to substantial errors that underestimate or overestimate the actual risk. Therefore, although the concentration-addition model has been demonstrated to predict the toxicity of pesticide active-ingredient mixtures more accurately when the pesticide active ingredients have the same mechanism of action (Belden et al. 2007a), caution should be exercised in using concentration-addition modeling as a default approach.