Enhancing Scientific Understanding of Chemical Safety

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Scott Jensen
(202) 249-6511

While much is known about the safety of chemicals, scientific understanding and technology are continuously evolving. ACC collaborates with government, NGOs and other industry sectors to promote research to investigate new theories about chemical safety and develop advanced technologies and testing methods to improve the way we evaluate the safety of chemicals.


Hazard refers to the inherent properties of a substance that make it capable of causing harm to human health or the environment. Exposure describes both the amount of, and the frequency with which, a chemical substance reaches a person, group of people, or the environment. Risk is the possibility of a harmful event arising from specific uses and circumstances of exposure to a substance.

Scientists and health professionals in government, industry and research institutions examine all three when assessing a chemical’s safety, known as a “chemical risk assessment.” 
The scientific understanding of hazard, exposure and risk, as well as the technology to test chemicals, is progressing rapidly. Advances in molecular biology, robotic testing and computer modeling hold great promise to speed up chemical safety assessments and replace outdated animal testing methods. New data from reliable scientific studies should be considered in chemical safety assessments, but more research is needed to ensure new testing methods and theories are proven before they are used in regulatory decision-making.

ACC sponsors two primary scientific initiatives to enhance understanding of chemical safety and inform public policies and research practices:

The Long-Range Research Initiative (LRI) : LRI is an international collaboration established to enhance scientific understanding of the health and environmental safety of the products of chemistry, particularly in areas related to everyday exposures to low levels of substances. LRI focuses on filling the gaps in our understanding about the possible hazards posed by chemicals and to promote innovation in the methods and technologies used for assessing chemical safety. LRI is working to develop more effective and efficient safety assessment tools.

The Center for Advancing Risk Assessment Science and Policy (ARASP) : ACC established ARASP to advance knowledge about how chemicals interact with the body and at what levels the body reacts to a substance. ARASP advocates for the use of the best available scientific information for chemical risk assessments and regulatory policies. Specifically, ARASP promotes the integration of analyses including “mode of action” (how chemicals interact with the body), “dose-response” (at what amount (dose) of exposure does the body react (respond) to a substance) and “weight of evidence” (evaluating the reliability and integrity of all available data, both positive and negative results, to determine that which is most reliable and relevant) to produce a complete picture of a chemical.


Initiatives such as LRI and ARASP are helping to improve scientific understanding of chemical safety so the best available science underlies decisions about the regulation of chemicals.

  • Current LRI research priorities include: interpreting data from new testing technologies and their relationship to health risks; advancing the understanding of children’s health and their sensitivity to chemical exposures; and developing new tools to assess exposures.

  • ARASP is one of the leading organizations in the Alliance for Risk Assessment collaboration which is focused on developing best practices and practical guidance for chemical risk assessments.

As scientific understanding evolves, initiatives such as LRI and ARASP are helping inform policies to promote the safe use of the products of chemistry.