Applying 21st Century Toxicology to Green Chemical and Material Design
September 20-21, 2011
House of Sweden
2900 K Street NW
Washington, DC 20007
More than 83,000 chemicals are available for use in the U.S. today, many of which pose serious hazards to the environment and human health. The rising concern about toxic properties of chemicals has given rise to the field of green chemistry – the science-based design of chemicals, chemical processes, and products that minimize the use and generation of hazardous substances. Green chemistry, based upon 12 fundamental principles1, takes a life-cycle approach where each chemical is evaluated from its birth (i.e. development and production) through its ultimate disposal after use. Thinking upfront about what substances are used to make chemicals; how a chemical may be transformed in biological and environmental systems; and how and where a chemical is transported in those systems will help shift society’s paradigm from one of hazard or risk response to a paradigm of hazard and risk prevention.
New toxicological testing methods and tools are emerging that hold real potential to facilitate rapid screening of large numbers of chemicals for their inherent biological and environmental characteristics. Use of such methods and tools to inform chemical design and synthesis is one exciting area of potential application. However, a true understanding and evaluation of biological responses and toxicology has yet to be well-incorporated into the chemical design process.
This meeting brought chemists, toxicologists, industry sustainability and executive officers, and other expert scientists and stakeholders together to define common goals, identify knowledge gaps, and promote applied research aimed at expediting and targeting the application of this “new toxicology” to the emerging field of green chemistry with its life cycle approach. The meeting began with an overview of green chemistry and stakeholder perspectives on current efforts and needs for accelerating green-chemical design. Presentations and discussions explored different rapid assessment approaches in toxicology, including high-throughput biochemical screening, in vitro cellular approaches, and rapid assessments using aquatic organisms. Such questions as “how can early consideration of toxicological factors assists with chemical design?” and “what toxicology factors are important?” were also discussed. Presenters highlighted design and production considerations in new materials and products like nanomaterials, pesticides, and oil dispersants to demonstrate how advancing toxicological testing approaches might be incorporated into the emerging field of green chemistry. Particular attention was also given to the relative advantages and limitations of the emerging rapid assessment approaches and how the data can be used to inform green chemistry decisions. This important and timely synthesis encouraged the exchange of knowledge and experiences to identify a path forward for establishing the next generation of safer chemicals to better protect human health and the environment.
1.”The 12 Principles of Green Chemistry” United States Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/gcc/pubs/principles.html. Retrieved 2 June 2011