Earlier this year the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banded together to give us a high-speed robotic screening system called Tox21. This system was created to test the potential toxicity levels of 10,000 compounds. The list of 10,000 compounds covers chemicals used in a wide variety of products including consumer products, food additives, chemicals used during industrial processes, and human and animal medications.
Not only will Tox21 provide us with information on individual chemicals, but it will also test the potential health hazards of mixtures of chemicals. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Toxicology Program, notes the importance of Tox21, “All of us are exposed to many different chemicals at the same time, not just one chemical at a time. These new technologies allow us to more rapidly advance our understanding of not only individual chemicals, but mixtures of chemicals as well.”
This exciting technology will be able to test chemicals at a rate that was never made possible by human hand. Such speed and efficiency will enable organizations like the EPA and the FDA to quickly determine any potential health risks related to newly developed compounds. Additionally, Tox21 can improve the efficiency of companies who will be able to avoid the use of chemicals already declared unsafe. The director of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Janet Woodcock explains that, “the Tox21 rapid assessment of drug toxicity can become a powerful safety tool for protecting the American public. It also has the potential to help bring innovative drugs to market by allowing drug developers to identify unsafe candidate drugs early.”
After many trial runs, Tox21 is ready to start testing! Official testing of the 10,000 compounds began last week. When testing results become available they can be accessed through NIH and EPA chemical toxicity databases. For more information on Tox21 refer to the following informational pamphlet: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/assets/docs_p_z/ntp-tox21.pdf