PARC inspired ECHA’s scientific research needs

Which research areas should be prioritised to lead the way for future regulation of hazardous chemicals? In a recent report the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) gives its advice inspired by PARC.

The report ‘Key areas of regulatory challenge 2023’ identifies areas where research is needed to protect people and the environment from hazardous chemicals. It also highlights where new methods, that support the shift away from animal testing, are needed. In 2024, ECHA will revisit the key areas and update where necessary.

In the first year of PARC, ECHA realised from its interaction with the different projects and from the project proposals submitted for the second year of PARC, that the regulatory relevancy of research is not so easy to comprehend.

To help research be useful for regulators, ECHA concluded it should better articulate the key areas and topics where the Agency sees a clear need for further research and development and sketch better the regulatory context.

Four prioritized research areas

To further improve chemical safety in the EU, scientific research needs to deliver data that is relevant to regulating chemicals. To enhance the regulatory relevance of scientific data, ECHA has identified the following areas as priorities for research:

•    hazard identification for critical biological effects that currently lack specific and sensitive test methods: i.e. developmental and adult neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity and endocrine disruption;
•    chemical pollution in the natural environment (bioaccumulation, impact on biodiversity, exposure assessment);
•    shift away from animal testing (read across under REACH, move away from fish testing, mechanistic support to toxicology studies e.g. carcinogenicity);
•    new information on chemicals (polymers, nanomaterials, analytical methods in support of enforcement).

Next update of report in spring 2024

The ‘Key areas of regulatory challenge 2023’ report can be seen as an evolving research and development agenda aiming to support and inspire PARC and the wider research community. The list of research needs is not exhaustive. The next update to the report is expected in spring 2024.

ECHA’s role in PARC is to make sure that the funded scientific research addresses current challenges related to chemical risk assessment and adds value to the EU’s regulatory processes.

Read the report and find the link to the podcast Safer Chemicals Podcast on bridging the gap between scientific research and chemicals regulation here