Has Quantitative Risk Assessment Been of Benefit to the Science of Toxicology?
Quantitative approaches to evaluating the risks of chemical toxicity entered the lives of toxicologists in the mid- 1970’s, and the continuing interaction of toxicology and risk assessment has been of benefit to both disciplines. I will summarize the origins of the interaction, the reasons for it, and the difficult course it has followed. In doing so, I will set the stage for a discussion of how the type of thinking that informs risk-based decision-making provides important benefits to the continuing development of the science of toxicology. There will continue to be societal pressure for the development of reliable knowledge about the public health importance of the enormous variety of chemical exposures we all incur, from conception to death. Risk assessment is the framework used to organize and convey that knowledge. Toxicology is the principle discipline used to give scientific substance to that framework. Social acceptance of every manifestation of the modern chemical age requires high assurance that the public health is not threatened, and that assurance depends upon continued improvements in these two mutually dependant disciplines.