The Health and Environmental Sciences Institute (HESI) has developed a framework to support a transition in the way in which information for chemical risk assessment is obtained and used. The approach is based on detailed problem formulation, where exposure drives the data acquisition process in order to enable informed decision-making on human health safety as soon as sufficient evidence is available. Information is evaluated in a transparent and consistent way with the aim of optimizing available resources. In the context of risk assessment, cumulative risk assessment (CRA) poses additional problems and questions that can be addressed using the RISK21 approach. The focus in CRA to date has generally been on chemicals that have common mechanisms of action. Recently, concern has also been expressed about chemicals acting on multiple pathways that lead to a common health outcome, and non-chemical other conditions (non-chemical stressors) that can lead to or modify a common outcome. Acknowledging that CRAs, as described above, are more conceptually, methodologically and computationally complex than traditional single-stressor risk assessments, RISK21 further developed the framework for implementation of workable processes and procedures for conducting assessments of combined effects from exposure to multiple chemicals and non-chemical stressors. As part of the problem formulation process, this evidence-based framework allows the identification of the circumstances in which it is appropriate to conduct a CRA for a group of compounds. A tiered approach is then proposed, where additional chemical stressors and/or non-chemical modulating factors (ModFs) are considered sequentially. Criteria are provided to facilitate the decision on whether or not to include ModFs in the formal quantitative assessment, with the intention to help focus the use of available resources to have the greatest potential to protect public health.
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