On November 7–8, 2013, the Institute of Medicine’s Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine held a workshop to discuss approaches related to identifying and reducing potential environmental public health risks to new and existing industrial chemicals present in society. Industrial chemicals include chemicals used in industrial processes or commercial products, not including those found in food, pesticides, or pharmaceuticals. Through presentations and discussions, the workshop examined successes and areas for improvement within current regulatory programs for assessing industrial chemical safety, frameworks for chemical prioritization to inform targeted testing and risk management strategies, concepts of sustainability and green chemistry that support the design and use of safer alternatives, and efforts to reduce the risk of chemicals in our society. The workshop statement of task is provided in Box 1-1.
The following is a summary and synthesis of the presentations and discussions that took place during the 2 days of the workshop. The planning committee worked to identify varied perspectives on the topic areas included in the workshop, and the diversity of speakers and stated viewpoints contributed to a wide range of input on the subject of reducing the risk of chemicals in society. When reading the summary it is important to keep in mind that the opinions expressed and any recommendations made are those of the individual speakers themselves and do not represent the position of the Institute of Medicine or the National Academies. Indeed, the purpose of the Roundtable on Environ-
1 The planning committee’s role was limited to planning the workshop, and the workshop summary has been prepared by the workshop rapporteurs as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshop. Statements, recommendations, and opinions expressed are those of individual presenters and participants, and are not necessarily endorsed or verified by the Institute of Medicine, and they should not be construed as reflecting any group consensus.
Statement of Task
An ad hoc committee will plan and conduct a 2-day, public workshop on identifying and reducing environmental health risks of chemicals. The workshop will focus on responsibilities and authorities for safeguarding the public from chemical hazards at the federal, state or local, and global levels (e.g., Toxic Substances Control Act [TSCA], Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management). Furthermore, invited speakers will present and discuss the process for assessing chemicals (e.g., prioritization of chemicals under TSCA) and the state of the science in chemical hazard assessment (adequacy of current models, innovative approaches), public health goals for managing risks of chemicals, protections for vulnerable populations, and communication with consumers. The committee will develop the workshop agenda, select invited speakers and discussants, and moderate the discussions. A workshop summary will be prepared by a designated rapporteur in accordance with National Research Council policies and procedures.
mental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine is to provide a mechanism for interested parties in environmental health to meet and discuss sensitive and difficult environmental issues in a neutral setting. The Roundtable fosters rigorous dialogue about these issues, but it does not provide recommendations or even try to find a consensus on these issues.
The organization of this summary roughly parallels the structure of the workshop itself with remarks by a few individuals regrouped to reflect the themes that developed over the 2 days. Chapter 2 begins with a summary of the challenge of chemicals in today’s society and general approaches to dealing with chemical risk. Chapter 3 summarizes the presentations and discussion of the current regulatory approaches to dealing with industrial chemicals. Chapter 4 is devoted to providing background and context to the topic of chemical risks and models for environmental risk assessment. Chapter 5 summarizes presentations on improved approaches to priority setting in the risk assessment and risk management of industrial chemicals. Chapter 6 includes a summary of a variety of approaches that institutions have taken to reducing chemical risks in our society. Chapter 7 summarizes the final panel of the workshop, where various speakers synthesized and expanded on the
presentations and discussions that had taken place on the previous day and a half.
Over the course of the workshop, several prominent themes emerged from the individual speakers’ remarks and discussion sessions that ensued. These themes are presented here as a way to organize the material summarized in this report and do not represent conclusions or recommendations from the workshop.
- Individual workshop speakers noted that the volume of chemicals in commerce increased greatly during the 20th century and that government agencies continue to struggle to identify which chemicals are in use today in order to better understand hazards chemicals may pose to human health and the environment.
- Much of the discussion focused on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976,2 with individual workshop participants agreeing that a legislative update could greatly improve the regulatory process for industrial chemicals in the United States.
- Although workshop speakers presented varying prioritization approaches to chemical testing and management, the matrices were quite similar in their characterization of hazard and exposure. The matrices tended to differ in the level of precaution employed, with some frameworks moving ahead boldly and others conservatively.
- It is clear that there are many drivers for reducing the risk of chemicals in our society (e.g., reducing costs, reducing risks, and such intangibles as the reputation of products and companies). Individual workshop participants noted that the life-cycle approach and improved availability of chemical information and assessment are important facets to achieving this goal.
2 Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, Public Law 94-469, 94th Congress.