Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have created a map of the world’s chemical landscape, a catalogue of 10,000 chemicals for which there is available safety data that they say can predict the toxicity of many of the 90,000 or more other substances in consumer products for which there is no such information.
The map, described online February 12 in the journal Alternatives to Animal Experiments and being presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference the same day in Washington, DC, was designed to help regulators, manufacturers and scientists get a good idea about whether chemicals for which there is little research are harmful or not. The research was done by creating a searchable database of the 816,000 research studies conducted on 10,000 chemicals registered in Europe, which includes information about whether they pose a hazard to humans and what type.
“There are 100,000 chemicals in products we use every day and we are missing 90 percent of the safety information we need,” says study leader Dr. Thomas Hartung, the Doerenkamp-Zbinden Professor and Chair for Evidence-based Toxicology at the Bloomberg School. “It would take billions of dollars to test every one of them, which is very cost prohibitive. To address this, we have come up with a computer model that can tell us which chemicals are similar to untested ones to give us an idea of what types of hazards they are likely to pose.”
The European Chemical Agency began registering chemical compounds such as solvents, detergents, colorants and food additives in 2007, after legislation known as REACH stipulated the eventual collection of comprehensive safety information for all substances on the European market at more than 1 ton per year of production or sales volume. Korea and China also have similar rules and the United States and China are expected to follow suit, Dr. Hartung says.