EPA Screens 700 More Chemicals for Toxic Effects

EPA Screens 700 More Chemicals for Toxic Effects

Test Tubes - CC license by Flickr user Horia Varlan

Seven hundred chemicals are going through a federal chemical screening program, bringing the total number of chemicals to pass through the ToxCast tests to 1,000.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began screening chemicals with ToxCast in 2007. Chemicals are put through 500 quick tests, and the intent of ToxCast is to predict how chemicals will affect humans and how they can cause health problems. 

More than 84,000 chemicals are registered in the United States, and due to current laws, the EPA has been able to order tests on only a few hundred of them and take action on a handful, a process that two bills in Congress — the Safe Chemicals Act and the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act — aim to change dramatically. 

ToxCast is part of the larger Tox21 program, which has brought together various agencies and institutes to create better, quicker and cheaper methods for screening and testing chemicals.

While the first 300 chemicals to go through ToxCast were mostly pesticides, the latest batch includes chemicals found in food additives, industrial and consumer products, and drugs that were never put on the market.

In May, the EPA received data on more than 100 failed drugs from four pharmaceutical companies. By putting the drugs through ToxCast and comparing the results to the drug companies' clinical trials, the EPA can see how well ToxCast is identifying the effects of chemicals.

The EPA is also comparing the ToxCast data from its first 300 chemicals to animal studies so see which tests are most accurate. The EPA recently began moving away from animal tests, which it calls slow and expensive.

For a complete list of chemicals going through ToxCast, see the EPA's CompTox website.

Test Tubes - CC license by Flickr user Horia Varlan