Tag Archives: metrics

Scientists constructing tool for chemists to flag endocrine disruptors early in chemical development.

The reporter got the attribution for our project wrong (NIEHS is not financially supporting this work, but is supporting it in kind. AGC and sister organization, Environmental Health Sciences, are funded to do the project). Still though: we are glad people are interested.

Pesticide and Toxic Chemical News
Friday September 23 2011

A group of biologists and green chemists, supported by the extramural research division of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, is developing a protocol for chemists to use to determine if the chemical they are developing is an endocrine disruptor.

Thaddeus Schug, who manages a portfolio of grants in the NIEHS Cellular, Organs and Systems Pathobiology Branch, highlighted the project during a panel discussion on practical approaches to integrating rapid testing into the chemical design process. The discussion took place Sept. 21, the second day of a workshop, “Applying 21st Century Toxicology to Green Chemical and Material Design,” which was sponsored by the National Academies’ Standing Committee on Use of Emerging Science for Environmental Health Decisions. Schug says the group has been working for the last year on developing a protocol, and the guiding principles behind it, to determine whether a chemical under development is toxic, and how and where testing should be performed.

“We focus on endocrine disruption, but our guiding principles and protocol could be developed to capture all forms of toxicity,” he said. The protocol is not regulatory, Schug said, but a guide chemists can follow – as they develop a chemical – to give them confidence as to whether the substance is or is not an endocrine disruptor.

The group, which includes non-governmental organizations, academics and green chemistry leaders, has come up with a tiered system. “What we propose to do is put the fastest, cheapest testing up front – the computational modeling, followed by high throughput screening and the zebrafish models,” Schug said. That would be followed up with more specific testing as a chemical moves further along the development process.

“The idea is if a chemist hits a positive early on, he’d either go back to the drawing board, or if that positive was in a specific area [i.e. an estrogen receptor in a high throughput assay], he’d follow that up with more comprehensive assays,” Schug said. “A hit anywhere along the tiered system” means the chemist has to pull back, reanalyze or throw the chemical out, he said.
“The idea is to do the fastest, cheapest test early on, so the chemist can weed out those problem chemicals early on in development so it’s not a costly procedure,” Schug said.

The idea of the protocol “arose from a great sense of frustration” in the endocrine disruptor community, Bruce Blumberg, a professor of developmental and cell biology at the University of California, Irvine who also is working on the project, said during the panel discussion. This frustration stemmed from “hearing things like, ‘Well, you can’t test for endocrine disruptors,’ which the American Chemistry Council says,” Blumberg noted. “We know very well how to test for endocrine disruptors, how to test for endocrine disruptor activities from in vitro all the way to animal studies,” he said. “So we said this is a gap that has to be filled, and we got together to fill that gap.”

The protocol is voluntary, Blumberg noted. “We suggest this if you want to screen for endocrine activity in your chemicals and make them more green – this is the way we think you should do it. We’re providing an alternative approach interested parties can use to make the best chemicals they can,” he said.

Richard Denison, senior scientist at Environmental Defense Fund, welcomed the protocol’s development, saying “it really flips the concept of tiered testing around.”
Usually in tiered testing, a chemical only advances to the next level of testing if it is flagged for an effect at an earlier level, “which puts a huge question mark around the extent to which false negatives are being missed.”

But in the case of the protocol, “you’re advancing things that don’t raise red flags to the next level [of testing], increasing the confidence that you didn’t miss anything,” Denison said. “I think that’s a really intriguing approach.”
(Read full article here.)
– Liz Buckley

NIEHS scientists join forces with green chemists

By Thaddeus Schug
April 2011

NIEHS/NTP scientists joined forces with leaders in the field of green chemistry in what may turn out to be a groundbreaking meeting, “Green Chemistry and Environmental Health Sciences — Designing Endocrine Disruption Out of the Next Generation of Materials,” held March 21-23 in Sausalito, Calif.

The challenges facing scientists trying to design such new materials are daunting. Say a chemist has developed a compound that he or she believes could be a replacement for bisphenol A (BPA). How will the scientist determine if the molecule is safer to human health and the environment? What testing will need to be done and what will guide scientists through this process?

The goals of the meeting in Sausalito were ambitious — to develop a consensus statement on the principles that guide the science needed to assess risks of potential endocrine disruptors, and to develop a reliable and rational testing protocol to aid chemists as they develop and bring the next generation of chemicals into the marketplace.

The intersection of green chemistry and environmental health science

Karen O’Brien, Ph.D., from Advancing Green Chemistry (AGC) and Pete Myers, Ph.D., of Environmental Health Sciences (EHS), welcomed participants to the event, which brought together an equal mix of biologists and chemists. Representatives from NIEHS and NTP included Division of Extramural Research and Training (DERT) program administrator Jerry Heindel, Ph.D., and Kristina Thayer, Ph.D., director of the NTP Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR).

Following a social ice-breaking exercise on the evening of March 21, the first full day of the meeting opened with presentations from Terry Collins, Ph.D., the Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University, and John Warner, Ph.D., president and founder of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry.

Both Collins and Warner stressed the need for fundamental changes in the way that scientists design new chemicals and the process of bringing them into the marketplace. “We must also pay close attention to the environmental impact and the effects on human health posed by these chemicals, and for those reasons chemists need to work hand-in-hand with biologists,” said Warner. He also stressed that chemists generally have no background in toxicology, but that they need to be able to test the chemicals being developed for endocrine activity and to do it early on in the product development process.

Designing a chemical screening protocol

The remainder of the day was divided into discussion sessions covering each phase of a newly developed screening model, designed by a science advisory board formed by meeting organizers that met monthly, via teleconference, for six months prior to the workshop. The protocol is geared towards identifying a wide-range of endocrine-active chemicals, such as atrazine, BPA, brominated flame retardants, organotins, perchlorates, and phthalates. The Board conducted  interviews with scientists with expertise in specific areas of toxicology, endocrine disruption, and assay development.

The testing paradigm proposed involves a five-tiered approach, starting with the fastest and cheapest assays and working through more specialized tests to determine whether a new chemical has endocrine disrupting characteristics. The initial two phases rely on predictive computer modeling and high-throughput screening to quickly weed out problem chemicals. These tests are followed by more specific in vitro cell-based screening assays with a mind to refining, reducing, and replacing animal testing as much as possible.

The final two phases involve use of fish, amphibian, and mammalian in vivo modeling systems. Overall, the protocol is intended to help green chemists establish a high degree of confidence that the replacements they are developing are unlikely to be harmful to humans or the environment.

The next steps

The meeting wrapped up with discussion on how to proceed with development of the testing protocol as well as plans for implementation. The advisory board plans to use input from the meeting to develop and publish a white paper outlining guidelines that chemists can use to assess the quality of protocols and tests used to assess endocrine disruption.

(Thaddeus Schug, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research fellow currently on detail as a program analyst in the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training. He was part of the NIEHS/NTP delegation and a presenter at the meeting.)

A representative diagram of the draft screening protocol  unveiled at the meeting
A representative diagram of the draft screening protocol unveiled at the meeting. The protocol is designed in a tiered approach, with rapid and cost effective screens conducted in the early phases and more extensive testing toward the end. (Slide courtesy of Pete Myers)

Left to right, Collins, Heindel, and Warner mix ingredients  for a batch of salmon tartare.
Left to right, Collins, Heindel, and Warner mix ingredients for a batch of salmon tartare.  The cooking exercise was used as an ice-breaking event to demonstrate how environmental health scientists and chemists can work together to solve complex issues. (Photo courtesy of Pete Myers)

Laura Vandenberg, Ph.D., left, contributes to the discussion  on assay development, as Tom Zoeller, Ph.D., center, and Wim Thielemans, Ph.D.,  look on.
Laura Vandenberg, Ph.D., left, contributes to the discussion on assay development, as Tom Zoeller, Ph.D., center, and Wim Thielemans, Ph.D., look on. Vandenberg, a postdoctoral fellow at Tufts University, studies the developmental effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals. (Photo courtesy of Pete Myers)

Left to right, Bruce Blumberg, Ph.D., Thayer, and Andreas  Kortenkamp, Ph.D., served as panel members for a discussion on in vitro screening assays.
Left to right, Bruce Blumberg, Ph.D., Thayer, and Andreas Kortenkamp, Ph.D., served as panel members for a discussion on in vitro screening assays. (Photo courtesy of Pete Myers)

A group photo of the meeting attendees.
A group photo of the meeting attendees. The meeting was held at the Cavallo Point Lodge, which sits adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge. (Photo courtesy of Pete Myers)

NIEHS  grantees Andrea Gore, Ph.D., left, and Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., were among  panel members for the discussion on in  vivo assays.
NIEHS grantees Andrea Gore, Ph.D., left, and Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., were among panel members for the discussion on in vivo assays. Both Gore and vom Saal are members of  the project’s scientific advisory board. (Photo courtesy of Pete Myers)

Chemists, biologists collaborate to design endocrine disrupter screening tool.


As part of an unprecedented collaboration in the US between environmental health scientists and synthetic chemists, a working meeting was held last week as part of an ongoing project to create a design protocol to screen new materials for endocrine disrupting activity. Hosted by the non-profit organisations, Advancing Green Chemistry and Environmental Health Sciences, the meeting brought together about two dozen leading researchers in fields that include molecular biology, endocrinology, genetics, and green chemistry to create a screening tool to be used as new chemicals are being synthesized with the goal of detecting potential biological activity before a new compound goes into commercial production.

While endocrine disruption has been recognised as a health hazard for more than two decades, no screening tool comparable to the one this group of scientists is developing currently exists. To be effective at detecting endocrine disrupting activity, an assay would have to take into account potential low dose and non-linear effects of chemicals and the many possible interactions such chemicals can have with genetic receptors. The goal of the project is to produce a suite of peer-reviewed assays for synthetic chemists, the great majority of whom are not trained in biology, endocrinology or toxicology. The protocol is being designed for use in both commercial and academic laboratories.

“In the US, there has been a 15-plus year effort underway at the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), which has still not come out with a comprehensive testing protocol for endocrine disruption,” said Karen Peabody O’Brien, executive director of Advancing Green Chemistry. “Rather than wait for regulation of what is already in use, this group is putting together a design tool for chemists who are trying to create the next generation of safer materials or ‘greener’ chemicals. We are not trying to regulate industry but give chemists the means to find out well in advance whether they are making something that, to the best of our knowledge, is not biologically active,” explained Dr O’Brien.

She stressed that this is the first toxicological screening tool to be developed by such a cross-disciplinary team of scientists and that the intent is to provide chemists with a way to establish confidence that new materials – particularly alternatives to existing problematic chemicals – are safe.

Article underestimates challenges of marrying chemical design and toxicology.

Posted by Audrey Moores at Mar 31, 2011 06:00 AM | Permalink

An article entitled “Better by Design“ and published in Science News on March 26th describes the recent progress made by chemists towards the design of safer chemicals. The article features a computer-based study by a group of Yale chemists who demonstrated that toxicity of a molecule is strongly correlated with a small number of chemical and physical properties. This research study suggests that we soon will be able to quickly assess the potential toxic risk associated with a molecule – all from its chemical formula. The hope is to build a predictive tool to design inherently safer chemicals from the moment chemists first start to think about them.

The Science News article does a good job of describing the importance of designing chemicals for everyday use that will not present environmental health problems. It also explains in an approachable fashion, some of the ways molecules can interfere with the body. However, two important aspects of the challenge chemical design represents for chemists may be lost.

First, understanding the potency of a molecule at the design level is achievable, as some of the works highlighted in the article suggest. However it is still difficult and not yet entirely possible for all molecules, especially brand new ones. The chemistry community still regards it as an immense challenge to design molecules possessing biological activity – for drug discovery for instance. It is equally complex to predict a desired absence of biological potency. It goes far beyond simply looking at a molecule’s drawing. It requires specialized computer software and databases, as well as lab and animal tests.

Why? Because a compound may be harmful for many combined reasons. The article accurately lists some of them. A compound may interact with the body, for instance, through binding with a specific protein. When it does so, it may trigger undesired body responses, such as an earlier puberty in the case of BPA. This interaction is like a key-lock interaction, where the global shape of the key and the position of each indentation count. So that when chemists design a new molecule for making a plastic wrap, for instance, they should verify that it is not also a key that unlocks an unwanted protein reaction. This task is gigantic, despite what the article suggests. Only a computer program could achieve it reliably.

Second, chemists have by training a limited knowledge of molecular toxicity. There is a tendency for scientists to specialize, and chemists have followed that path. For example, biology is hardly taught in any chemistry curriculum – which mainly concentrates on chemical reactions with a target product in mind. Students are not taught where starting materials are coming from and where molecules go after use. A true paradigm shift is needed to ensure the next generation of chemists can embrace the complexity of the problem of molecule design. The article completely skipped this issue.

In general, the article would be more powerful, and maybe more approachable, if it had provided a vision of how in the future chemists could use tools to design molecules. When chemists first think about a molecule and draw its structure they could consult the program to get an estimation of how potent it can be. With this information, chemists could refrain from even making a molecule that could prove harmful in the long run.

While the article covers an important development in chemistry, it would be better if the reporter had put this work into perspective. Using computers to predict biological activity is a good step, but is just one of many methods developed.

ORD Chief Sees Need For EPA To Craft Green Chemistry ‘Design’ Guidance.

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.

Read the entire story at Inside EPA.com

Do we need labels on eco-labels?

BASF Launches Eco-Label Database for Easy Comparing

Published February 28, 2011
BASF Launches Eco-Label Database for Easy Comparing

FLORHAM PARK, NJ —  In an attempt to get a handle on the numerous eco-labels and ratings systems that have multiplied in recent years, BASF created a database that now includes 100 programs and is growing.

The chemical company says it developed the SELECT Eco-Label Manager so that it and its stakeholders could better manage all the different environmental labels, claims, directories and ratings that have been created or are used by the government, other businesses, trade groups and organizations.

SELECT — standing for Sustainability, Eco-Labeling and Environmental Certification Tracking — lets users search, analyze and compare programs, and is currently only available to BASF employees and certain BASF customers and stakeholders.

”The demand for environmentally preferable products is rapidly evolving and influencing purchasing decisions along entire supply chains,” Pat Meyer, BASF senior product steward and program leader, said in a statement. “These purchasing requirements have spawned hundreds of eco-labels and programs…leading to a lot of confusion.”

The SELECT database has 100 programs in it so far, most related to North America, but BASF says it will keep adding programs from around the world to it.

Activists, Industry At Odds Over Future Of Key ‘Green’ Chemistry Standard

By Bridget DiCosmo

See Original article at: InsideEPA.com

November 29, 2010

Environmentalists and industry groups are at odds over the adequacy of a landmark proposal for a national green chemistry standard, with some environmentalists calling for the “green” moniker to be dropped because the draft standard does not allow consumers to assess the relative toxicity and energy efficiency of various chemicals.

But industry groups are pushing for the standard to be implemented and resisting environmentalists’ calls to create a weighting system to assess the relative benefits of various chemicals, saying it was never intended to regulate chemicals’ toxicity and will limit manufacturers’ flexibility to adjust the standard to their own needs.

The draft standard was never intended as a “substitute for Toxic Substances Control Act reform,” one industry source says.

NSF International, together with EPA, the Green Chemistry Institute, the American Chemistry Council, and others last month unveiled a draft reporting standard, “Greener Chemicals and Processes Information Standard,” which details data reporting requirements for chemical manufacturers to help customers identify products with “green” attributes, including less-toxic chemicals and more energy-efficient production processes.

Supporters say one of the goals of the draft standard is to reduce “greenwashing,” or unsubstantiated environmental claims, in the marketplace and remove ambiguity.

But developers of the document have already appeared to soften their original goals, dropping their earlier effort to name the standard as the “Green Chemistry Standard.”

One key source suggests the new document could be renamed the “Hazard Information Standard.” Other critics say it should simply be renamed as the “Chemicals Information Standard.”

The first source says that while the draft serves as a “good starting point” to begin getting information about chemical hazards, many downstream industry users want access to information about a chemical’s various transformations during its lifecycle, highlighting a significant weakness of the draft document.

“It won’t tell you where the raw materials came from, and it won’t be able to tell you ‘A is better than B,'” the source says. Another source said the standard was a “fantastic tool” for getting information in one place, but added that the document had limitations. “It’s important to realize I can take the most toxic, hazardous, energy-using product in the world and [attain] the standard.”

A third source that participated in crafting the draft standard said that the lack of a weighting system for comparing chemical characteristics to one another was likely due to heavy pressure from the chemicals industry during the creation of the document. Public health and environmentalist groups were “not given enough of an input,” nor were downstream users who would have to rely on the standard to make business choices, the source says. “I’ve heard some fairly negative feedback.”

The standard, which is voluntary, uses a three-tier system to classify health-related characteristics of chemicals for setting data-reporting requirements, which determine how much information a chemical manufacturer must submit about a chemical to achieve compliance with the standard. Among other things, the draft establishes a list of human health endpoints that the company must submit available studies on, such as a chemical’s carcinogenicity or neurotoxicity.

Environmentalists Raise Concerns

But in comments filed ahead of the Nov. 16 comment deadline, two environmental groups — Citizens Environmental Coalition and Glynn Environmental Coalition — are calling for the adoption of a “weighting system” to help end users determine what characteristics would make a chemical less hazardous or more energy-saving than another.

Without such a comparative system, the draft’s shortcomings “severely limits” the goal of the standard and shift the burden of assessing product’s safety onto end users, according to the environmentalists’ comments.

“The standard is not constructed to give any guidance as to what actually constitutes ‘greener’ chemicals and/or chemical processes. In spite of the title of the standard, it provides information without any usable metric to assess how ‘green’ a chemical or process is, and, indeed, is not able to clearly define what makes a chemical ‘greener.’ The burden for assessing ‘greener’ is shifted entirely onto the user, even if the manufacturer does third party certification,” the comments say.

The draft also fails to provide “adequate opportunity” for a manufacturer attaining the standard to “describe how it stands out from the pack in advancing green chemistry principles, in substituting safer chemicals for more toxic ones, and going beyond regulatory compliance to voluntarily undertake pollution prevention projects,” according to separate Nov. 16 comments filed by the Citizens Environmental Coalition.

In those comments, the environmental group lauded the objective of the standard–to offer a uniform way to define and report certain categories of information, their respective data elements and data quality criteria.

But the environmentalist group claims in its public comments that the standard fails to set any kind of measurable “goal” for safer, less toxic, or less hazardous chemicals or chemical processes.

Instead, the document gives notable attention to energy use and efficiency in the manufacturing process, the comments say. “We expected to read a standard that was primarily about manufacturers moving to safer chemicals and processes, reducing toxicity and process safety hazards, reducing or eliminating the discharge to the environment of chemical by-products or wastes. Instead we see a standard which calls for improved reporting and disclosure on chemical hazards about a manufacturer’s existing chemicals and processes, while asking for a lot of information about energy and water use.”

The environmental group also says that the “most serious failing of the standard” is that the draft would allow “a highly toxic and persistent, bioaccumulative chemical to be called ‘greener’ and the process which made it to be called a “greener chemical process.'”

The environmental groups also noted in their Nov. 16 public comments that there was an “absence of public health professionals and environmental NGO’s whose focus is on toxic chemicals policy. More importantly, the standard included few, if any, experts in green chemistry, green engineering, and other critical fields relevant to the standard.”

Industry Calls For ‘Flexible’ Standard

But the American Chemistry Council (ACC) in Nov. 16 comments says the standard has the potential to fill a need in the marketplace for a systematic analysis using green chemistry principles. ACC also says in its comments that the standard can be revised periodically once it is finalized, but that it should be flexible to allow manufacturers to adjust the approach to fit their business needs. “We believe that including an inflexible, overly stringent set of reporting elements at the outset is a significant barrier to adoption and use,” the comments say.

And the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Alliances says in Nov. 15 comments that the information requirements outlined in the draft standard are “extensive” and could create challenges for smaller manufacturers. “To help alleviate this and to encourage use of the standard we ask that the drafting committee consider how it might ease its usage as it continues to develop,” the comments say. — Bridget DiCosmo

Could estimating environmental risk soon be a click away?

Papa, E and P Gramatica. 2010. QSPR as a support for the EU REACH regulation and rational design of environmentally safer chemicals: PBT identification from molecular structure. Green Chemistry 12:836-843.

Synopsis by Adelina Voutchkova, Sep 16, 2010

A new computer model may be a significant step forward in predicting the cumulative environmental risk of new and existing chemicals, say researchers who developed it. The model uses a compound’s chemical structure to classify its toxicity, persistence and bioaccumulation – three major traits regulators use to flag a chemical’s potential environmental hazards.

The benefits are significant: working computer models could minimize the need for animal testing, identify highly hazardous compounds already in use and tag the most harmful ones before they are manufactured or introduced to the market.

Globally, thousands of new chemicals are produced each year. The United States alone introduces between 700 and 800. New regulations – such as the Toxic Substances Control Act (ToSCA) in the United States and the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) in Europe – will require toxicity and persistence testing for all new chemicals. However, given the high cost of standard animal toxicity testing, companies may be unable to comply. In addition, current tests can miss some crucial human health risks, such as endocrine activity and fetal toxicity. Additional costly and time-consuming animal studies need to be performed to test for these effects.

The ongoing research into alternative, computer-based testing spans decades. Regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia have made progress developing models, but the scope is usually limited. Most models can accurately predict a particular hazard for only a small class of structurally-related chemicals.

The new model developed by researchers at Italy’s University of Insubria may go beyond a one-hazard, one-chemical type of approach. The researchers combined information from 180 organic chemicals – including some notorious environmental pollutants such as dioxins, PCBs and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – to build a robust computational model. This model ranked the compounds based on their cumulative harm, such that the highest ranked chemicals would have the greatest potential to be toxic, cumulative and persistent.

According to the paper, the model successfully predicted the simultaneous persistence, bioaccumulation and toxicity (PBT) behavior of chemicals based on their chemical structure. The model is applicable to a wide variety of chemicals but was based on traditional, organic-type compounds. It could act as a qualifying tool and may be useful in helping chemists design less hazardous industrial chemicals and materials

Some limitations exist, however, to this approach. The model might not work as well for new, distinct chemicals designed with different chemical properties from those used to build the model. This is because models are based on what is known about how certain chemicals behave in people and the environment. Little information may be known about how new types of chemicals behave, making good hazard predictions challenging. For example, nanomaterials are used in numerous innovative products – such as self-cleaning fabrics, ultra-strong alloys and bacteria-resistant surfaces. But, their toxicity is puzzling and does not always conform to toxicity or environmental behavior patterns that could be predicted by their chemical structure.

Measuring the growing impact of Green Chemistry scholarly research.

Advancing Green Chemistry has a long-standing interest in benchmarking the advancement of the field of Green Chemistry;  one particular area in which one can measure change is in scientific publications.

Recently there have been two new assessments of growth in the overall numbers  – and impact factor  – of the scientific publications in Green Chemistry.  As a field of science that is on the rise, this is to be expected; but it is extremely gratifying to see data on such advancements. This is not just hand waving, but statistical evidence of a profound shift in chemistry in favor of Green Chemistry, its processes, and applications.

First is the brief yet stunning news from the Royal Society of Chemistry journal, Green Chemistry. From a blog post by Editor Sarah Ruthven:

Highest Impact Factor for Green Chemistry – 5.84

18 Jul 2010

“Newly released 2009 ISI citation data shows the impact factor for Green Chemistry hits a record high of 5.84, representing a 28.5% growth over the 2008 figure.

This impressive trend underlines the continuing success of Green Chemistry, now in its 12th year of publishing. This news reinforces Green Chemistry’s  position as the leading journal for publishing cutting-edge research of the highest quality in the field of green and sustainable technologies.”

The impact factor, often abbreviated IF, is a measure reflecting the average number of citations to articles published in science and social science journals. It is frequently used as a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field, with journals with higher impact factors deemed to be more important than those with lower ones.

By way of comparison, the average impact factor for Royal Society chemistry journals in 2008 was 6.042. This means that Green Chemistry has entered mainstream chemistry and can no longer be considered a niche field.

Additionally, the journal Green Chemistry: Letters and Reviews (Taylor and Francis) has just published a review article entitled,

Green Chemistry: state of the art through an analysis of the literature (by V. Dichiarante; D. Ravelli; A. Albini).

The abstract states:

“The literature of green chemistry has undergone a dramatic increase in the new millennium. Besides that, in ad hoc journals, papers of this type are published in journals of general, organic, and catalytic chemistry. The high proportion of communications within this area indicates that this is a hot topic. These reports mainly concern more environment-friendly synthetic methods, based on better catalytic systems, less harmful solvents and, more rarely, “alternative” physical techniques. Although the compliance with the green chemistry postulates is still partial, a trend in this direction is recognizable. For example, the number of preparative papers that introduce an environmental assessment is rapidly increasing.”

Both of these analyses indicate that the science of Green Chemistry  – as measured through scientific publications – is on the rise and a more established dimension of the science of chemistry. This is exciting news.

TOX21 Pools Government Agencies’ Resources to Test Chemicals for Toxicity.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has joined the Tox21 collaboration, which leverages federal agency resources, including research, funding and testing tools, to develop models for more effective chemical risk assessments. The FDA is expected to provide additional expertise and chemical safety information to improve current chemical testing methods.

The collaboration, established in 2008, includes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the National Institute of Health Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC) and now the FDA.

EPA says 2,000 chemicals have already been screened against dozens of biological targets. The group is targeting 10,000 chemicals screened by the end of the year.

FDA will collaborate with other Tox21 members to prioritize chemicals that need more extensive toxicological evaluation, and develop models that can better predict human response to chemicals.

EPA contributes to Tox21 through the ToxCast program and by providing chemicals and additional automated tests to NCGC. ToxCast currently includes 500 chemical screening tests that have assessed more 300 environmental chemicals.

A major part of the Tox21 partnership is the robotic screening and informatics platform at NCGC that uses fast, automated tests to screen thousands of chemicals a day for toxicological activity in cells, says EPA.

In April, the EPA launched its Web-based chemicals database, ToxRefDB, which allows anyone to search and download thousands of toxicity testing results on hundreds of chemicals. This latest announcement is part of the EPA’s policy to increase the transparency of chemical information.