The zebrafish is often used as a laboratory animal. But in the future, the EU wants to evaluate chemicals using non-animal methods. Shutterstock/Julian 78

Headline: Modernizing Hazard Indicators


Chemical hazard assessment is a key element of the European Green Deal. A group of Helmholtz researchers has developed innovative hazard indicators, which they intend to discuss with stakeholders from industry and regulatory authorities as part of this project. A result of this will be a strategy paper with concrete proposals for policymakers. According to the researchers, a paradigm shift is needed in three respects. First, high-throughput screening methods are required for thousands of chemicals. Previous methods assess a small number of individual substances. The procedures, while detailed, are slow. On the other hand, there is a transition from individual to comparative assessments of necessary chemicals. And thirdly, there should be a change from animal testing to animal-free methods.

While scientific concepts for modern hazard indicators are discussed among experts and case studies show their feasibility and usefulness, there is no dialogue with industry and regulation about the potential and social impact of the proposed paradigm shift. The present project will remedy this and align the development of indicators for risk assessment to the needs of the various target groups.

Current State of the Project

In a recent concept paper, a group of Helmholtz researchers proposed scientific concepts for modern hazard indicators. At the centre are two innovative hazard indicators called cumulative toxicity equivalents (CTE) and persistent toxicity equivalents (PTE). Together, they replace existing indicators. They can be tested using modern methods without animal testing. Case studies on the feasibility and usefulness of these indicators are already underway.

It is the goal of this SynCom project to organize and implement a series of three online workshops with aforementioned stakeholder groups. All workshops will follow principles for high-quality knowledge co-production. Participants will evaluate opportunities and challenges of revising regulation to include new hazard indicators. Based on the results of these three online workshops, the researchers will develop a summary of core topics and needs of all stakeholder groups and a proposal how to meet these needs. This summary will then be discussed at a synthesis workshop that will be held in person in Berlin with 30-50 attendees where solutions and a roadmap to the introduction of new hazard assessment approaches are discussed. The final product will be a policy brief that includes a roadmap and specific suggestions for modernizing EU chemicals assessment.