IHS Chemical Week


Combination effects: The challenges of understanding chemical release effects on humans and the environment

9:17 AM MDT | June 7, 2013 | By DEREK KNIGHT

Knight will discuss chemical effects at HCF.
My interest in hazard and risk assessment as senior scientific advisor at the European Chemicals Agency has now given me the opportunity and great pleasure to moderate a panel at the fifth Helsinki Chemicals Forum. I also had the chance to participate in one of the panels of the 2012 conference dealing with the convergence of regulatory systems and how best to minimise duplication. I remember the interesting discussion that the topic generated and the multitude of views that were expressed both by my copanellists and also by the participants who submitted questions and thoughts to the panel to drive the discussion. The Helsinki Chemicals Forum really is a unique platform that brings together authorities, industry, and associations to Helsinki to share their views and to find solutions to shared problems in international chemicals management. We have so many actors across the globe that deal with similar issues that it is always a valuable occasion to be able to pick the brains of the experts and to discuss the opportunities and challenges we all share.

This year, I will moderate a panel dealing with the combination effects from chemicals that occur when humans or the environment are exposed:

(a) To mixtures of substances released from a formulated chemical product

(b) To the same substance released from different sources at different times

(c) To different substances released from different sources at different times

For (b) and (c), the major challenge is to understand releases of substances from different sources and how they combine at a target—human exposure, different environmental compartments, and humans via the environment—and monitoring information can help with this. A further complication for the environment is that fate and distribution effects of substances are important. 

For (a), the adverse effect may be due to the mixture as a whole or to the separate component substances—depending on the circumstances of the exposure. A complicating factor is also that the properties of the individual substances may be affected by the coformulants. The current high-profile concern is the cocktail effect, which is when different substances with the same biological action can exert combined adverse effects either on humans or the environment.

With such a wide-ranging topic that covers both the regulatory and industrial challenges of combination effects and culminates on the potential hazards to the general public, the expert panel will surely be involved in an animated debate both within the panel and with the participants attending the event. The panel features experts from the University of Gothenburg, the European Food Safety Authority, the Danish Ministry of Environment, and the European Environmental Bureau, each bringing its own unique view and experiences to the table.

Derek Knight is the senior scientific advisor at the European Chemicals Agency.
The Helsinki Chemicals Forum takes place 23-24 June, 2013 at Helsinki, Finland. See the program and find out more at www.helsinkicf.eu.

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