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Environ Int. 2016 Jul-Aug;92-93:556-64. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2015.11.002. Epub 2015 Dec 11.

Implementing systematic review techniques in chemical risk assessment: Challenges, opportunities and recommendations.

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Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK.
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK. Electronic address:
Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry, Stockholm University, SE-106 91, Stockholm, Sweden.
Assessment and Methodological Support Unit, European Food Safety Authority, Via Carlo Magno 1/a 43126, Parma, Italy.
Food Standards Agency, Aviation House, 125 Kingsway, London WC2B 6NH, UK.
Aquatic Research Centre, University of Brighton, Lewes Road, Brighton BN2 4GJ, UK.
MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK.
Department of Geography and Environmental Science, School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science, University of Reading, Reading, RG6 6DW, United Kingdom.
Royal Society of Chemistry, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BA, UK.
Centre for Radiation, Chemicals and Environmental Hazards, Public Health England, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 0RQ, UK.
Swiss Centre for Applied Human Toxicology, University of Basel, Missionsstrasse 64, 4055 Basel, Switzerland.
European Centre for Ecotoxicology and Toxicology of Chemicals (ECETOC), Avenue Edmond Van Nieuwenhuyse 2 Bte 8B-1160 Brussels, Belgium.
Institute for the Environment, Health and Societies, Brunel University London, Kingston Lane, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK.
Evidence-Based Toxicology Collaboration (EBTC), Stembergring 15, 33106 Paderborn, Germany.
University of California San Francisco, Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Cochrane Editorial Unit, Cochrane Central Executive, St Albans House, 57-9 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4QX, UK.
Institute of Environment, Health, Risks and Futures, School of Energy, Environment and Agrifood, Cranfield University, Cranfield, Bedfordshire MK43 0AL, UK.
Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK.
Health Economics Research Group, Brunel University London, Kingston Lane, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK.
Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors (IfADo), Neurobehavioural Toxicology, Ardeystr 67, D-44139 Dortmund, Germany.
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford, Oxfordshire 0X10 8BB, UK.
Ramboll Environ, 1 Broad Gate, The Headrow, Leeds LS1 8EQ, UK.
National Institute of Environmental Sciences (NIEHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Research Triangle Park, NC, USA.
Syngenta Ltd., Jealott's Hill International Research Centre, Bracknell RG42 6EY, UK.
Centre for Rural Economy, School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.


Systematic review (SR) is a rigorous, protocol-driven approach designed to minimise error and bias when summarising the body of research evidence relevant to a specific scientific question. Taking as a comparator the use of SR in synthesising research in healthcare, we argue that SR methods could also pave the way for a "step change" in the transparency, objectivity and communication of chemical risk assessments (CRA) in Europe and elsewhere. We suggest that current controversies around the safety of certain chemicals are partly due to limitations in current CRA procedures which have contributed to ambiguity about the health risks posed by these substances. We present an overview of how SR methods can be applied to the assessment of risks from chemicals, and indicate how challenges in adapting SR methods from healthcare research to the CRA context might be overcome. Regarding the latter, we report the outcomes from a workshop exploring how to increase uptake of SR methods, attended by experts representing a wide range of fields related to chemical toxicology, risk analysis and SR. Priorities which were identified include: the conduct of CRA-focused prototype SRs; the development of a recognised standard of reporting and conduct for SRs in toxicology and CRA; and establishing a network to facilitate research, communication and training in SR methods. We see this paper as a milestone in the creation of a research climate that fosters communication between experts in CRA and SR and facilitates wider uptake of SR methods into CRA.


Chemicals; Environment; Research synthesis; Risk assessment; Systematic review; Toxicology

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