Why Plastic?, We The Guinea Pigs

“We the Guinea Pigs” investigates why we are still constantly – and increasingly – exposed to dangerous chemicals through our plastic use, even though researchers have warned us about the potential adverse health effects for decades. Some of the most cutting edge scientific findings on how plastic harms our health come from Danish researchers Terje Svingen and Hanna Johansson.

A recent study conducted in Denmark has revealed how endocrine disrupting chemicals affect the female reproductive system. It shows that female rats exposed to endocrine disruptors during early development end up with fewer eggs in their ovaries and are at risk of losing their ability to reproduce at an earlier age. For some time researchers have known that plastic has a negative impact on men’s sperm count. Are we involuntary participants in an enormous experiment, threatening the health of millions of people – maybe even mankind as such?

As the use of plastic has gained ground in our lives over the years, there has been an inexplicable increase in a number of diseases and disorders amongst the population. In this film as part of the Why Plastic? series, the BBC meets leading researchers looking into the reasons for these disorders and follow case studies of people suffering from various health conditions thought to be caused by exposure to certain every day materials including plastic. Are these people the victims of unfortunate coincidences – or is there an explanation?

View the episode here.

A pragmatic way forward in chemical safety assessment

In a recent paper, FREIA partners Terje Svingen (DTU) and Pauliina Damdimopoulou (KI) propose an approach to speed up the development and acceptance of mechanistic descriptions that are used by chemical safety assessors and regulators.

Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs) are a way to organise scientific knowledge and describe how a stressor – such as exposure to an endocrine disrupting chemical – can lead to a harmful health effect through a chain of linked events. The use of AOPs is gaining wide acceptance and will help to support chemical safety assessors and regulators.

Yet, only a few AOPs are thoroughly evaluated and endorsed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which clearly hampers their regulatory use. A major hurdle is the immense amount of work that has to be put into the development of an AOP. “Putting together the information for one key event relationship (the link between two sequential events in an AOP – red.) took me about three months altogether”, explains Eleftheria Panagiotou, PhD student involved in this work.

“We propose to focus more on smaller building blocks and rely more on existing common knowledge”, says lead author Terje Svingen. The approach will make it more attractive for scientists to contribute to AOPs, because in this way, they can focus on their own expertise and don’t have to be an expert on all facets of an AOP from molecular interactions to health effects.

Moreover, a description of a smaller AOP building block makes an excellent paper to be submitted for peer-review. Besides the scientific merit, publishing the building blocks has the added advantage that external peer-reviewers have already critically evaluated the information. This may stimulate faster endorsement of AOPs by the OECD. “It is our hope that our proposed approach will increase the pace at which the AOP knowledge base is populated with endorsed AOPs, which will certainly improve chemical safety assessment processes.”, according to the authors of this paper.

Reference

Terje Svingen, Daniel L. Villeneuve, Dries Knapen, Eleftheria Maria Panagiotou, Monica Kam Draskau, Pauliina Damdimopoulou, Jason M O’Brien. A pragmatic approach to Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP) development and evaluation. Toxicological Sciences, kfab113, https://doi.org/10.1093/toxsci/kfab113 Published: 17 September 2021

Join the second FREIA webinar

EDC IDENTIFICATION: HOW DOES IT WORK?

27 October 2020, 15PM in Brussels.

In 2018, the European Commission adopted criteria to assess whether a biocide or pesticide is an endocrine disruptor. A guidance document was written on how to do this in practice. FREIA partner Julie Boberg (Technical University of Denmark) will explain the process of ED identification, using butylparaben as an example. 

Butylparaben is often used in cosmetics to prevent microbial growth. It is on the candidate list of substances of very high concern of the European Chemicals Agency for its endocrine disrupting properties.

Not only will Dr Boberg show that butylparaben has more negative effects on reproduction than previously thought. It is also a great example that current criteria and EDC identification tools may also be suitable for other chemical regulations.

This webinar is organised by the FREIA project, with support from the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL). Participation is free. For more details, please contact info@freiaproject.eu

Participation is free. You can register here.