On November 24, 2016 the Danish Ministry for the Environment and Food held a one-day stakeholder workshop entitled “Towards a non-toxic future” in Ringstedt, Denmark. The aim of the workshop was to develop policy recommendations for Danish and European authorities on how to effectively regulate chemicals in the near future. The event gathered 130 participants from academia, government authorities of EU Member States and from the EU Commission (EC), public interest and consumer advocacy groups, and industry. All presentation slides and videos of the talks are freely available. Workshop participants actively contributed to generating suggestions on how chemical policy could be improved. A summary of suggestions will be available in the workshop report.
Several noteworthy presentations were made. Andreas Kortenkamp of Brunel University, UK, discussed the scientific understanding of chemical mixtures. He explained that models for predicting mixture toxicity have been validated in single cell test systems (“in vitro”), as well as in whole animal models (“in vivo”). His latest, still unpublished, research has also demonstrated mixture toxicity models to accurately predict cocktail effects in human fetal testes explants.
Anne Dencker Bædkel of the Copenhagen Institute of Futures Studies, Denmark, presented future trends in European consumption patterns. Several megatrends, including demographic development, sustainability, focus on health, and polarization, will affect consumer behavior. She explained that new lifestyles create demand for new products and services, for example fragmented family constellations or the increasing number of single households. Further, she highlighted an increasing anti-science attitude of certain consumers, showing the need for effective and understandable science communication.
Thomas Jakl, Deputy Director at the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management, shared a new concept for providing services, instead of chemical products. This approach could decouple economic success from chemical production, because it shifts the focus to selling a service and thereby incentivizes companies to reduce chemical use. Further, he discussed the trend of “free-from” labels and highlighted successful collaborations by Austrian NGOs and retailers.
Guilhelm de Seze, Head of the department of Scientific Evaluation of Regulated Products at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), noted a lack of appropriate data for regulatory risk assessment on plastic food contact materials, and that EFSA will increasingly be taking actual chemical exposures from finished food contact articles into account when dealing with non-intentionally added substances.
Jack de Bruijn, Head of the Risk Management Directorate at the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), highlighted that the safe use of chemicals requires knowledge, supply chain communication and regulatory action. With respect to mixture toxicity, he acknowledged that practical assessments of all exposures are impossible; therefore, he suggested a pragmatic approach where the no observed effect level (NOEL) of a substance is divided by a default factor of 10 or 100 to account for mixture effects. In addition to this, the risk quotient could also be lowered from 1 (where actual exposure equals the NOEL) to 0.1 or 0.01 for introducing additional safety.
Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark (2016). “Towards a non-toxic future. Conference 24 November 2016.”