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National Research Council Calls on EPA To Step Up Toxicity Testing

(Beyond Pesticides, June 21, 2007) Earlier this month the National Research Council (NRC) released the results of its analysis of current models used in the regulatory process by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Recognizing that many regulatory decisions are based on data obtained from models, NRC sees room for improvement.

The main recommendations of the report, Models in Environmental Regulatory Decision Making, lie within three areas of the modeling process: (1) model evaluation; (2) principles for model development, selection, and application; and (3) model management.

Specific recommendations of the report include the need for the agency to be committed to ongoing model evaluations, a transparent peer review process, the goal of not using proprietary models, transparency of a model’s origin and history, and improving model accessibility for stakeholders and others.

NRC also sees a future with more sophisticated toxicity testing that will be using cells, cell lines, or cellular components, preferably of human origin, replacing traditional animal testing over time. According to the National Academies’ press release, “For the foreseeable future, however, targeted tests in animals would need to be used to complement the in vitro tests, because current methods cannot yet adequately mirror the metabolism of a whole animal.”

The press release summarizes, “Current toxicity-testing practices are long established and deeply ingrained in some sectors… But it [the report] emphasizes that the proposed changes will generate better data on the potential risks humans face from environmental agents, building a stronger scientific foundation that can improve regulatory decisions to mitigate those risks, and reducing the time, money, and animals needed for testing.”

The report concludes the recommendations presented will meet some resistance due to the resource needs to implement these changes but finds, “such investments are essential if environmental regulatory modeling is to meet challenges now and in the future.”


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