Chemical testing in the 21st century

We face major challenges in evaluating the health and environmental effects of chemicals.

There are significant gaps in the data available on the safety of the ever-growing number of chemicals in commerce. In addition, our ways of testing chemicals and assessing their risks haven’t kept up with recent advances in science, which point to wholly new factors that need to be considered, such as the effects of low-dose exposures, the importance of the timing of exposure, and the extent of variability in the human population.

Finally, conventional testing methods rarely tell us how chemicals act and can miss effects that are more difficult to detect in these types of traditional, whole animal studies.

To meet these challenges, new approaches are being developed that do not rely solely on costly and time-consuming animal-based testing methods.

These approaches allow testing of more chemicals at lower cost and can also help characterize the underlying mechanisms by which chemicals interact with our biology. But they face their own sets of limitations and challenges that must be met if they are to contribute to advancing the field of toxicity testing.

Because EDF believes that active engagement of organizations and researchers dedicated to improving public health is critical to the development and use of the emerging methods, we have developed a primer as a resource for understanding new chemical testing approaches.