Perspectives from a New Sustainable Chemicals through Contemporary Toxicology Specialty Section Member


By Lauren Brown posted 04-29-2021 16:16


For the past decade, I have used my training in toxicology to inform analyses on various aspects of risk assessment for hazardous chemicals. My work revolves around defining problems: What adverse health effects are associated with chemical X? How much exposure to chemical X triggers a cause for concern? Analyzing these problems often leads me to ask what I can do to contribute to a solution before the risk arises. And at a broader scale, how can SOT contribute to decreasing exposure to hazardous chemicals and ensuring new chemicals brought to the market do not increase the risk of adverse human health outcomes?

My desire to be a part of this solution is why I opted to join the newest SOT Specialty Section, Sustainable Chemistry through Contemporary Toxicology (SCCT). SCCT has several objectives, one of which is “to develop, propose, and conduct a variety of cutting-edge programs and educational activities that emphasize the latest developments and issues related to sustainable chemical design, alternatives assessment, and informed substitution.” Seeing that SOT has a Specialty Section dedicated to these objectives excited me as a first-year member of the Society.

As a member of SCCT, I can develop relationships with the leaders in the fields of alternatives assessment and informed substitution. In addition, SCCT is providing me access to resources to grow my knowledge base in this topic area. As my current position is still very much focused on risk assessment, being a part of this specialty group allows me to stay current on the practices in this area and keeps me up-to-date on a field of research I am truly passionate about.

I find the methods I learn from participating in SCCT webinars and discussions with group members are transferrable to my day-to-day research as well—for example, when tasked with summarizing the hazards of multiple chemicals in a similar functional class (e.g., solvents, insecticides). There are tools (e.g., Pharos, ToxNot) and methods (e.g., GreenScreen, OECD Key Considerations for the Identification and Selection of Safer Chemical Alternatives) that provide frameworks that make comparing chemicals’ toxicological profiles straightforward. Therefore, even in these instances, where I am not conducting a true alternatives assessment, the tools and methods I learn about from participating in SCCT are still relevant.

During the Annual Meeting this year, I attended the SCCT Specialty Section meeting and was immediately motivated to be an active participant. SCCT Executive Committee members discussed the work they had done in their first year, such as co-hosting a webinar with the Association for the Advancement of Alternatives Assessment on the “EU’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability Towards a Toxic-Free Environment.” They also discussed the work they are planning to do in 2021, including collaborating with the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry on a special session related to cross-species extrapolation, specifically considering the movement away from animal testing.

After the meeting, I reached out to SCCT leadership, who quickly engaged me to become an active member. I look forward to this opportunity, not only because I am excited to collaborate and work with some of the pioneering researchers in this field, but also because I want to help spread the word about the field of sustainable chemistry, alternatives assessments, and informed substitution. My hope is that these concepts and ideas become commonplace within SOT and the broader field of toxicology.