— Bridget DiCosmo InsideEPA.com. Originally Posted: Mar. 14
2011 EPA’s research chief Paul Anastas is calling for the agency to begin crafting a guidance for how to design benign industrial chemicals and chemical processes, and establish metrics and criteria for both design and assessment of what specific chemical properties should be considered in reducing a substance’s ability to manifest hazard.
Anastas told the Society of Toxicology’s (SOT) 2011 annual meeting in Washington, DC, March 8 that the agency should set as a goal development of a set of design parameters that establish criteria about the properties of new chemicals that render it intrinsically less hazardous than comparable substances currently in the marketplace. “The goal is to develop a set of design rules that can inform and be useful — just inform and be useful — for molecular design and reduced hazard,” Anastas said, during the meeting. Anastas’ presentation to SOT, “Molecular Design for Reduced Hazard,” floated a set of “design protocol” criteria for modifying chemical properties in new chemicals that could potentially pose hazard that should be considered within such a framework, such as reduced bioavailability of a chemical, or its ability to reach the system of an organism.
“One of the grand challenges of molecular design is thinking about this in a systemic way,” Anastas said. The need to transition ORD’s current risk assessment paradigm into a more systemic and sustainable approach has been a long-standing priority of Anastas’ at the agency, culminating recently in the development of a newly integrated research program, Chemical Safety for Sustainability, which includes green chemistry in its planned research agenda.
The approach Anastas is suggesting appears to be different from that currently used by the agency’s toxics office, which uses a set of alternatives assessment criteria, including bioaccumulation potential of substances, to qualify products for its Design for Environment (DfE) labeling program. But for the most part that methodology is based on specific toxicity endpoints, like carcinogenicity, rather than using chemical properties to evaluate the mechanistic potential of a chemical to cause adverse effects.
Anastas said that the pharmaceuticals industry considers a general, uniform set of criteria meant to circumvent hazard in its drug manufacturing processes, saying the industry approach “couldn’t be more different from the vast majority of industrial chemicals in design purposes.”
Anastas’ remarks also take the agency some way toward adopting a definition of green chemistry — an approach some environmentalists and public health advocates have previously called for EPA to adopt in order to limit chemicals’ toxicity.