(Beyond Pesticides, March 18, 2009) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new online database that collects information on more than 500,000 synthetic chemicals from over 200 public sources. The Aggregated Computational Toxicology Resource (ACToR) database provides access to hundreds of data sources in one place, enabling easy access for environmental researchers, scientific journalists and the public. However, more than half of these chemicals do not have any detailed testing data.
ACToR, which is actually a collection of databases, was developed to support the ToxCast program of the EPA National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT). ToxCast was designed to develop faster methods to evaluate the potential toxicity for thousands of chemicals using computer modeling and advanced molecular biology techniques. More than 200 sources of publicly available data on environmental chemicals have been brought together on ACToR and made searchable by chemical name and other identifiers, and by chemical structure. Data includes chemical structure, physico-chemical values, in vitro assay data and in vivo toxicology data. Chemicals include, but are not limited to, high and medium production volume industrial chemicals, pesticides (active and inert ingredients), and potential ground and drinking water contaminants. Sources of information include EPA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. National Institutes of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies; state databases, Health and Environment Canada, the European Union, the World Health Organization and other international groups; and non-governmental organizations, private companies and universities.
ACToR was used to analyze toxicity information on almost 10,000 chemicals regulated by EPA and identify data gaps to be addressed by ToxCast, to help EPA prioritize future testing of chemicals. While acute toxicity data is available for 59 percent of the surveyed chemicals, detailed testing information is much more limited. Only 26 percent of the 10,000 chemicals have carcinogenicity testing data, 29 percent have developmental toxicity testing data, and 11 percent have complete reproductive toxicity test results.
The lack of toxicological data on more than half of the 10,000 chemicals overseen by the EPA means that there are numerous data gaps and thus, a lack of adequate safety tests which continues to undermine the integrity of EPA’s risk assessment process. With little to no data on chemicals that are allowed to enter the consumer market place, the agency is failing to protect human and environmental health. A recent GAO report found that the EPA does not have sufficient chemical assessment information to determine whether it should establish controls to limit public exposure to many chemicals that may pose substantial health risks. The report went on to state that EPA has not responded to recommendations made to reduce agency shortcomings and has “not sufficiently improved the scientific information available to support critical decisions regarding whether and how to protect human health from toxic chemicals.”