Relatively little is known about the toxicity of the many chemicals in existence today. This has prompted European Union regulatory authorities to launch a major chemicals testing program, known as Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). Although the driving force behind REACH is ostensibly based on the precaution- ary principle, in practice, the evidence suggests that it is oriented more toward risk assessment than precaution. In addition, the test methods used to assess chemical risk also raise questions about the efficacy of REACH in achieving its stated aims of protecting human health and the environment. These tests rely in large part on animal models. However, based on empirical evidence and on well-established principles of evolutionary biology and complex systems, the animal model fails as a predictive modality for humans. In turn, these concerns raise significant ethical and legal issues that must be addressed urgently. Immediate measures should include a major biomonitoring program to reliably assess the chemical burden in European Union citizens as a means of prioritizing the most dangerous substances present in the environment. Blood and urine biomarkers are useful tools with which to implement biomonitoring and to help guide public policy. An ecological paradigm, based on pollution prevention, rather than pollution control and risk assessment of individual chemicals, represents a superior strategy, to prevent global chemical pollution and toxicity risks to human health.
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