Assessments of Direct Human Exposure—The Approach of EU Risk Assessments Compared to Scenario-Based Risk Assessment
The awareness of potential risks emerging from the use of chemicals in all parts of daily life has increased the need for risk assessments that are able to cover a high number of exposure situations and thereby ensure the safety of workers and consumers. In the European Union (EU), the practice of risk assessments for chemicals is laid down in a Technical Guidance Document; it is designed to consider environmental and human occupational and residential exposure. Almost 70 EU risk assessment reports (RARs) have been finalized for high-production-volume chemicals during the last decade. In the present study, we analyze the assessment of occupational and consumer exposure to trichloroethylene and phthalates presented in six EU RARs. Exposure scenarios in these six RARs were compared to scenarios used in applications of the scenario-based risk assessment approach to the same set of chemicals. We find that scenarios used in the selected EU RARs to represent typical exposure situations in occupational or private use of chemicals and products do not necessarily represent worst-case conditions. This can be due to the use of outdated information on technical equipment and conditions in workplaces or omission of pathways that can cause consumer exposure. Considering the need for exposure and risk assessments under the new chemicals legislation of the EU, we suggest that a transparent process of collecting data on exposure situations and of generating representative exposure scenarios is implemented to improve the accuracy of risk assessments. Also, the data sets used to assess human exposure should be harmonized, summarized in a transparent fashion, and made accessible for all risk assessors and the public.