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Low dose, low risk; very low dose, no real risk. Setting a pragmatic threshold below which concerns become negligible is the purpose of thresholds of toxicological concern (TTC). The idea is that such threshold values do not need to be established for each and every chemical based on experimental data, but that by analyzing the distribution of lowest or
no-effect doses of many chemicals, a TTC can be defined – typically using the 5th percentile of this distribution and lowering it by an uncertainty factor of, e.g., 100. In doing so, TTC aims to compare exposure information (dose) with a threshold below which any hazard manifestation is very unlikely to occur. The history and current developments of this concept are reviewed and the application of TTC for different regulated products and their hazards is discussed. TTC lends itself as a pragmatic filter to deprioritize testing needs whenever real-life exposures are much lower than levels where hazard manifestation would be expected, a situation that is called “negligible exposure” in the REACH legislation, though the TTC concept has not been fully incorporated in its implementation (yet). Other areas and regulations – especially in the food sector and for pharmaceutical impurities – are more proactive. Large, curated databases on toxic effects of chemicals provide us with the opportunity to set TTC for many hazards and substance classes and thus offer a precautionary second tier for risk assessments if hazard cannot be excluded. This allows focusing testing efforts better on relevant exposures to chemicals.
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