Alternative methods go green! Green toxicology as a sustainable approach for assessing chemical safety and designing safer chemicals

Main Article Content

Alexandra Maertens, Thomas Luechtefeld, Jean Knight, Thomas Hartung
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Abstract

Green toxicology is marching chemistry into the 21st century. This emerging framework will transform how chemical safety is evaluated by incorporating evaluation of the hazards, exposures, and risks associated with chemicals into early product development in a way that minimizes adverse impacts on human and environmental health. The goal is to minimize toxic threats across entire supply chains through smarter designs and policies. Traditional animal testing methods are replaced by faster, cutting-edge innovations like organs-on-chips and artificial intelligence predictive models that are also more cost-effective. Core principles of green toxicology include utilizing alternative test methods, applying the precautionary principle, considering lifetime impacts, and emphasizing risk prevention over reaction. This paper provides an overview of these foundational concepts and describes current initiatives and future opportunities to advance the adoption of green toxicology approaches. Chal­lenges and limitations are also discussed. Green shoots are emerging with governments offering carrots like the European Green Deal to nudge industry. Noteworthy, animal rights and environ­mental groups have different ideas about the needs for testing and their consequences for animal use. Green toxicology represents the way forward to support both these societal needs with sufficient throughput and human relevance for hazard information and minimal animal suffering. Green toxi­cology thus sets the stage to synergize human health and ecological values. Overall, the integration of green chemistry and toxicology has potential to profoundly shift how chemical risks are evaluated and managed to achieve safety goals in a more ethical, ecologically-conscious manner.


Plain language summary
Green toxicology aims to make chemicals safer by design. It focuses on preventing toxicity issues early during development instead of testing after products are developed. Green toxicology uses modern non-animal methods like computer models and lab tests with human cells to predict if chem­icals could be hazardous. Benefits are faster results, lower costs, and less animal testing. The principles of green toxicology include using alternative tests, applying caution even with uncertain data, con­sidering lifetime impacts across global supply chains, and emphasizing prevention over reaction. The article highlights European and US policy efforts to spur sustainable chemistry innovation which will necessitate greener approaches to assess new materials and drive adoption. Overall, green toxi­cology seeks to integrate safer design concepts so that human and environmental health are valued equally with functionality and profit. This alignment promises safer, ethical products but faces chal­lenges around validating new methods and overcoming institutional resistance to change.

Article Details

How to Cite
Maertens, A., Luechtefeld, T., Knight, J. and Hartung, T. (2024) “Alternative methods go green! Green toxicology as a sustainable approach for assessing chemical safety and designing safer chemicals”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation, 41(1), pp. 3–19. doi: 10.14573/altex.2312291.
Section
Food for Thought ...
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