Thursday, August 09, 2007

The death of toxicology

We buried it at Donner summit last week, in a wine-drenched consensus. In its place we're ready to build green chemistry.

My toxicologist wife started it, and was joined by our friend the cell biologist. I offered the environmentalist view and one thing lead to another until we buried toxicology.

It's too late to follow the path of testing chemicals for harm, identifying the mechanism of toxicity, and then entering the regulatory dance to limit harm from the offending molecule. There are simply too many chemicals used, too little testing, and toxicity pathways are too complex. Doing toxicology these days is like scratching fleas bites on an elephant with a toothpick.

We need a new approach, focused on eliminating the use of toxic chemicals rather than cleaning up messes.

Now this leads to other thoughts, like the death of fishery management...but that's another story.


Revere said...

Couldn't agree more. Since I was one of the drafters of the US version of the Precautionary Principle at Wingspread, this has been a longstanding concern of mine, and several of my old friends and colleagues have been important contributors (Nick Ashford at MIT and Eula Bingham, who when she was OSHA Administrator tried to get a generic carcinogen rule that would eliminate chemical by chemical consideration -- that was 30 years ago and was unsuccessful then and not likely to succeed in this administration either). Clearly this is something we ned to keep pushing and working towards.

Mark Powell said...

Thanks Revere. Those interested should check out Effect Measure, Revere's interesting and insightful public health blog. Sadly, ocean and fish people now need to start worrying more about public health.

Now just who are these senior public health scientists and practitioners who run Effect Measure??

Anonymous said...

....and then there are all of the interactions within that toxic soup, among all of those "too many chemicals" and "too complex toxicity pathways".