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About this Issue

EPA innovation advances chemical safety and sustainability

photo of brain neuron

Photo of neurons from a toxicity study investigating how chemicals interact with the brain. This research helps determine the potential neurotoxicity of many chemicals including endocrine disruptors and nanomaterials.

Chemical safety is a major priority at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It's also a formidable challenge: more than 80,000 chemicals are currently listed or registered under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and hundreds of new chemicals are introduced into the marketplace every year.

Adding to this challenge is the fact that TSCA does not require many of the chemicals in use today to be thoroughly assessed for their potential risks to human health, wildlife, and the environment.

EPA researchers are working to meet this challenge. They and their partners from across academia, industry, and other federal agencies are harnessing advances in toxicology, systems and molecular biology, mathematical and computer science, robotics, chemistry, exposure science, and computer technology to usher in a new generation of chemical testing and screening methods that are faster, more efficient, and far less costly than traditional methods.

As highlighted in this issue of EPA's Science Matters, EPA researchers are developing innovative, new approaches and technologies to advance a better understanding of chemicals and maximize chemical safety and sustainability.

Examples illustrate such efforts as ToxCast, ExpoCast, and the Tox21 federal partnership, which collectively are developing automated, rapid methods to predict chemical risks. Already, EPA researchers used ToxCast in an initial, "proof of concept" phase to replicate toxicity testing collected over 30 years at a cost of some $2 billion dollars in four years for $6 million.

From exploring the potential risks from emerging substances such as tiny nanomaterials, to quickly addressing pressing concerns such as potential PCB exposures in the nation's schools, EPA chemical safety researchers provide the science and information the Agency and the nation need to assure the safety of chemicals.

What they and their partners are learning and developing are meeting today's challenges while advancing the path to the future – a future where not only do decision makers have the information they need to manage risks, but chemical engineers and others have the tools and data they need to minimize waste and hazards along the entire chemical life cycle, from inception to disposal. That future has already begun, and at EPA, it all starts with science.

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