Improving the Environmental Risk Assessment of Substances of Unknown or Variable Composition, Complex Reaction Products, or Biological Materials (UVCBs)

Substances of unknown or variable composition, complex reaction products, or biological materials (UVCBs) pose unique risk assessment challenges to regulators and to product registrants. These substances can contain many constituents, sometimes partially unknown and/or variable, depending on fluctuations in their source material and/or manufacturing process. International regulatory agencies have highlighted the difficulties to characterize UVCBs and to assess their toxicity and environmental fate. Several industrial sectors have attempted to address these issues by developing frameworks and characterization methods. Based on the output of a 2016 workshop, this Critical Review examines current practices for UVCB risk assessment and reveals a need for a multi‐pronged and transparent approach integrating whole‐substance and constituent‐based information. In silico tools or empirical measurements can provide information on discrete and/or blocks of UVCB constituents with similar hazard properties. Read‐across and/or whole‐substance toxicity and fate testing using adapted emerging method can provide whole‐substance information. Continued collaboration of stakeholders representing government, industry, and academia will facilitate the development of practical testing strategies and guidelines for addressing regulatory requirements for UVCBs.

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