Rapid assessment of chemical risks and life-cycle impacts
After 40 years of its enactment in 1976, the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) of the U.S. has been reformed for the first time in 2016, allowing EPA to more proactively evaluate the safety of chemicals on the market. The State of California recently launched the Safer Consumer Products Program, under which chemicals in consumer products are identified and prioritized for safer alternatives. In 2007, the European Commission enacted its REACH program requiring companies disclose the information on the hazards of chemicals that they produce or use. Similar regulations on chemicals in consumer products emerged in other countries including Japan, China, and South Korea in recent years. Despite the progresses in regulatory front, understanding the environmental and health impacts of chemicals in products remains to be a challenge. Everyday about 15,000 chemicals are newly registered to the Chemical Abstract Service (CAS), while the speed at which our knowledge on their life cycle impacts grows is much slower. Is there any solution to this problem? As technologies rapidly advance, so should the approaches to addressing the environmental and human health risks of chemicals. Among others, an operational platform to rapidly quantify the environmental and health impacts of chemicals is urgently needed. Such a platform requires knowledge and experience of various disciplines including Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), fate and transport of chemicals, chemical engineering and chemistry, spatially-explicit impact assessment, occupational health and near-field exposure assessment, predictive toxicity, and Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship (QSAR). In addition, we need quality data, efficient algorithms, and a smart way to integrate and communicate them.
Under the multi-disciplinary project called the Chemical Life-Cycle Collaborative (CLiCC; clicc.ucsb.edu), we created a partnership between industry, academia, and government to develop a suite of open-access tools to rapidly evaluate chemicals by providing three different outputs: their life-cycle environmental impacts, their risks, and their potential for safer alternatives. The CLiCC tools allow assessing chemicals at an early stage of their development when limited information is available. The CLiCC tools use techniques such as chemical process design simulation based on Feinberg’s theorem, predictive toxicology models, multi-media fate-and-transport models, and use and end-of-life phase simulators to rapidly build databases and predictions with uncertainty estimations. A modular structure is employed, allowing the user to run single or more complex assessments according to their specific needs. The tools also make use of cutting-edge information technologies such as semantic network and Resource Description Framework (RDF) techniques. These techniques allow an efficient storage of the resulting outputs to the database library, allowing the open-access chemical database to organically grow. The modular approach also allows for simple updating of individual modules to improve their performance and adapt each to new data and methods.
The aim of the workshop is to 1) showcase the capabilities of the novel tools developed in the CLiCC project, 2) to provide a hands-on experience to practitioners, regulators, risk assessors, and scientists on the capabilities of the tools, 3) to discuss potential improvements for the CLiCC tools, and 4) to generally debate on the potential of the industrial ecology community to develop and support rapid assessment tools and data for the assessment of novel technologies. Research methods include theoretical reflections, group discussions, as well as practical sessions.
Professor Sangwon Suh, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, and other members of the CLiCC project research team (clicc.ucsb.edu)
Presentation of the theoretical background and context, practical sessions on rapid life cycle assessment and risk assessment of chemical technologies, and a concluding panel discussion with participants.
Industrial ecology researchers and practitioners involved in the early-stage assessment of (chemical) technologies, risk assessors, chemical engineers, scientists at regulatory bodies, industry experts from the chemical sector.