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Improved risk assessment for environmental chemicals

Pesticides in the environment can pose a risk to human well-being and also to ecosystems and the services they provide. However, these risks are difficult to assess and quantify in relation to economic benefits such as plant protection and food production.
Improved risk assessment for environmental chemicals
Current risk assessment schemes can help reduce the level of pesticides in the environment. However, there is still a danger that risks to biodiversity and ecosystem services are not sufficiently understood, considering current changes in land use and climate. The CREAM (Mechanistic effect models for the ecological risk assessment of chemicals) project therefore developed a new approach for developing ecological models, called transparent and comprehensive ecological model evaludation (TRACE).

The TRACE concept focuses on systematically documenting the design, development and testing of a model as a series of equations or computer programmes. It also involves analysing and understanding the model and using it to address questions on population dynamics, as well as the effect of toxicants at the individual level. The models are important for improving the representation of exposure and effects at the individual level and for exploring the effects of chemicals at the population level.

Project partners found that mechanistic effect modelling was the best approach for making risk assessment more ecologically relevant by providing an understanding of how chemicals interact with ecosystems. Therefore, models were developed and used for determining the future regulatory risk of chemicals, particularly pesticides. This was achieved by developing guidance for Good Modelling Practice (GoMP).

Using TRACE, the CREAM project was able to lay the foundations for GoMP in mechanistic effect modelling, which was adopted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and to develop example models in case studies. In addition, many of these models can also be used to compare different patterns of use for the chemicals and their alternatives, which can be used instead of the chemical in question.

CREAM represents a considerable advance in helping to develop models that are not only robust and predictive but also accepted by regulators and industry as valuable decision-support tools.

Related information

Keywords

Risk assessment, chemicals, pesticides, ecosystems, mechanistic effect models, ecological models, good modelling practice
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