VisionChemicals will be developed in the future in such a way that they no longer pose a threat to human health or the environment.
To achieve this goal we have to adopt a new way of assessing the hazards of chemicals – that is to no longer examine individual substances with selected test organisms, but to look at diverse forms of chemical contamination that have different impacts in the real environment on different ecosystems, species communities and organisms. The risk assessment of chemicals in the future must therefore be an integrated assessment that combines ecotoxicology with human toxicology.
Our society develops, produces, uses and disperses a diverse and vast amount of chemicals – this is not just a current trend but one that is expected to continue into the future. These chemicals are in the form of raw materials, compounds and products and are believed to improve our standard of living. The material world is shaped by many diverse products ‒ all containing various components – virtually chemical cocktails. However, these “cocktails” have the potential to critically harm our environment and humans because chemicals are being distributed extensively in the environment through the increasing recirculation of water, the growing demand for agricultural land or the worldwide growth in prosperity and demand for natural resources.
The hazards of chemical substances to humans and the environment has been an on-going topic for decades. Time and time again, individual substances become the focus of public debates or make the headlines. The current approach that is used to assess the hazard potential of chemicals is based on individual substances. However, we need to bear in mind that in reality we are faced with complex mixtures whose composition changes in time and space.
The material world is shaped by chemical cocktails composed of diverse molecules .
Given these challenges, what should an integrated assessment approach look like? How can we succeed in developing a better understanding of the processes controlling retention levels, chemical transformation or biodegradation and the effects of chemicals under real environmental conditions? How can the (bio)transformation of pollutants be measured in the environment? Which role do ecosystem services play? Can model systems be developed that enable the effects of chemicals to be accurately assessed for different organisms? How can the effect of chemical mixtures and their impacts be predicted? Will there be substances in the future with a "built-in expiry date"?