Probabilistic risk assessment – the keystone for the future of toxicology

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Alexandra Maertens, Emily Golden, Thomas H. Luechtefeld, Sebastian Hoffmann, Katya Tsaioun, Thomas Hartung
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Safety sciences must cope with uncertainty of models and results as well as information gaps. Acknowledging this uncer­tainty necessitates embracing probabilities and accepting the remaining risk. Every toxicological tool delivers only probable results. Traditionally, this is taken into account by using uncertainty / assessment factors and worst-case / precautionary approaches and thresholds. Probabilistic methods and Bayesian approaches seek to characterize these uncertainties and promise to support better risk assessment and, thereby, improve risk management decisions. Actual assessments of uncertainty can be more realistic than worst-case scenarios and may allow less conservative safety margins. Most importantly, as soon as we agree on uncertainty, this defines room for improvement and allows a transition from traditional to new approach methods as an engineering exercise. The objective nature of these mathematical tools allows to assign each methodology its fair place in evidence integration, whether in the context of risk assessment, sys­tematic reviews, or in the definition of an integrated testing strategy (ITS) / defined approach (DA) / integrated approach to testing and assessment (IATA). This article gives an overview of methods for probabilistic risk assessment and their application for exposure assessment, physiologically-based kinetic modelling, probability of hazard assessment (based on quantitative and read-across based structure-activity relationships, and mechanistic alerts from in vitro studies), indi­vidual susceptibility assessment, and evidence integration. Additional aspects are opportunities for uncertainty analysis of adverse outcome pathways and their relation to thresholds of toxicological concern. In conclusion, probabilistic risk assessment will be key for constructing a new toxicology paradigm – probably!

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How to Cite
Maertens, A. (2022) “Probabilistic risk assessment – the keystone for the future of toxicology”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation, 39(1), pp. 3–29. doi: 10.14573/altex.2201081.
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