The role of alternative testing strategies in environmental risk assessment of engineered nanomaterials
Within toxicology there is a pressure to find new test systems and organisms to replace, reduce and refine animal testing. In nanoecotoxicology the need for alternative testing strategies (ATS) is further emphasized as the validity of tests and risk assessment practices developed for dissolved chemicals are challenged. Nonetheless, standardized whole organism animal testing is still considered the gold standard for environmental risk assessment. Advancing risk analysis of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) through ATS was discussed in September 2014 at an international Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) workshop in Washington, D.C. and serves as the point of departure for this paper. Here we present the main outcomes by describing and defining the use of ATS for ENMs as well as discussing its future role in environmental risk science. We conclude that diversity in testing should be encouraged to avoid “selective ignorance” and that, through an iterative process with low-tier and high-tier testing, data-generation can be validated to ensure relevant endpoints. Furthermore, simplified screening of ENMs could enable early decision-making on material design, while complex multispecies studies should be utilized to skip uncertain environmental extrapolations and give rise to more accurate risk analysis.