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Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Dec;119(12):1766-74. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1003327. Epub 2011 Aug 3.

A signal-to-noise crossover dose as the point of departure for health risk assessment.

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Risk Benefit Assessment Department, National Food Administration, Uppsala, Sweden.



The U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) cancer bioassay database provides an opportunity to compare both existing and new approaches to determining points of departure (PoDs) for establishing reference doses (RfDs).


The aims of this study were a) to investigate the risk associated with the traditional PoD used in human health risk assessment [the no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL)]; b) to present a new approach based on the signal-to-noise crossover dose (SNCD); and c) to compare the SNCD and SNCD-based RfD with PoDs and RfDs based on the NOAEL and benchmark dose (BMD) approaches.


The complete NTP database was used as the basis for these analyses, which were performed using the Hill model. We determined NOAELs and estimated corresponding extra risks. Lower 95% confidence bounds on the BMD (BMDLs) corresponding to extra risks of 1%, 5%, and 10% (BMDL01, BMDL05, and BMDL10, respectively) were also estimated. We introduce the SNCD as a new PoD, defined as the dose where the additional risk is equal to the "background noise" (the difference between the upper and lower bounds of the two-sided 90% confidence interval on absolute risk) or a specified fraction thereof.


The median risk at the NOAEL was approximately 10%, and the default uncertainty factor (UF = 100) was considered most applicable to the BMDL10. Therefore, we chose a target risk of 1/1,000 (0.1/100) to derive an SNCD-based RfD by linear extrapolation. At the median, this approach provided the same RfD as the BMDL10 divided by the default UF.


Under a standard BMD approach, the BMDL10 is considered to be the most appropriate PoD. The SNCD approach, which is based on the lowest dose at which the signal can be reliably detected, warrants further development as a PoD for human health risk assessment.

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