Informing 21st-century risk assessments with 21st-century science

Linda S. Birnbaum, Thomas A. Burke, James J. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Understanding and preventing adverse impacts from chemicals in the environment is fundamental to protecting public health, and chemical risk assessments are used to inform public health decisions in the United States and around the world. Traditional chemical risk assessments focus on health effects of environmental contaminants on a chemical-by-chemical basis, largely based on data from animal models using exposures that are typically higher than those experienced by humans. Results from environmental epidemiology studies sometimes show effects that are not observed in animal studies at human exposure levels that are lower than those used in animal studies. In addition, new approaches such as Toxicology in the 21st Century (Tox21) and exposure forecasting (ExpoCast) are generating mechanistic data that provide broad coverage of chemical space, chemical mixtures, and potential associated health outcomes, along with improved exposure estimates. It is becoming clear that risk assessments in the future will need to use the full range of available mechanistic, animal, and human data to integrate multiple types of data and to consider nontraditional health outcomes and end points. This perspective was developed at the “Strengthening the Scientific Basis of Chemical Safety Assessments” workshop, which was cosponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, where gaps between the emerging science and traditional chemical risk assessments were explored, and approaches for bridging the gaps were considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)A60-A63
JournalEnvironmental health perspectives
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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