Research on Evaluating Risk Across the Life Cycle of Manufactured Chemicals, Materials, & Products

EPA researchers are evaluating potential impacts to human and ecological health across the life cycle of manufactured chemicals, materials, and products. The research is generating chemical, biological, and toxicological information that advances the understanding of the relationships between chemical characteristics and potential impacts of use, and provides accessible information to support sustainable decisions. Analyzing the life cycle of chemicals will help EPA and others evaluate these chemicals prior to use, effectively assess alternatives, and support more sustainable chemical design and use.

Our research evaluating risks to human and ecological health across the life cycle of manufactured chemicals, materials, and products focuses on four areas:

Engineered Nanomaterials and Emerging Materials

Innovations in chemical and material design are rapidly changing the landscape of industrial and consumer products as novel materials, such as engineered nanomaterials, are incorporated to enhance their performance. This research will provide methods and tools to enable EPA to evaluate emissions, transformation, potential exposure and impacts of nanoparticles and emerging materials efficiently across the material/product life cycle. 

Sustainable Chemistry

This research will consolidate inherent chemical information, along with cheminformatics and computational chemistry tools for shared use, and will facilitate more effective, integrated evaluation of chemicals. The goal is to improve the understanding of chemical fate and activity in both animals and the environment to inform the design and evaluation of safer chemical alternatives and support sustainable decisions by industry and consumers.

  • Tools
    • Distributed Structure-Searchable Toxicity (DSSTox) Database Network - This public resource serves as a platform for storing and accessing chemical information, giving scientists access to a wide range of previously isolated data resources for the increasingly large chemical universe. 
    • Chemistry Dashboard - The publicly available dashboard provides improved access to data and models associated with chemicals of interest and is a hub that links together many U.S. EPA research databases, as well as, provides a gateway to an array of related public domain databases. The user-friendly interface provides access to chemical structure information, tens of thousands of physicochemical properties – used to develop machine-learning models, and millions of additional data points. 

Life Cycle and Human Exposure Modeling

EPA is developing ways to efficiently evaluate environmental and human health impacts of chemical use across the chemical/product life cycle –design, production, use, and disposal. This research brings together chemical exposure data and life cycle modeling in new ways, and creates tools for evaluating chemical/product impacts through their lifecycles to support decision making.

Ecological Modeling

EPA researchers are developing, integrating, and evaluating ecological models to predict effects of pesticides and other chemicals on endangered species and wildlife populations. This research will advance both efficient methods to assess risk when limited data is available and more complex approaches that can target data-rich applications. The research will integrate existing and new models into an ecosystem-based framework, combining environmental fate and transport of chemicals with improved toxicity interpretation to better understand impacts.

  • Tools
    • Markov Chain Nest Productivity Model - This model estimates the impact of pesticide exposures on the reproduction success of bird populations. 
    • Markov Chain Nest Productivity Model Estimating Tool- This tool estimates probabilities of failure of avian reproduction in the presence of competing risks. 
    • Web Ice - The Web-based Interspecies Correlation Estimation tool estimates acute toxicity to aquatic and terrestrial organisms for use in risk assessment.
    • EcoTox - This database provides information on adverse effects of single chemicals to ecologically relevant aquatic and terrestrial species. It includes more than 780,000 test records covering 12,000 aquatic and terrestrial species and 11,000 chemicals.
    • SeqAPASS - Sequence Alignment to Predict Across Species Susceptibility tool to aid in predicting chemical susceptibility to wildlife, including both plants and animals.