Origins of Existing Chemicals Assessments at OECD
In a Council Decision in 1987, member countries decided to establish or strengthen national programmes to systematically investigate existing chemicals. Then through another OECD Council Decision (in 1991), member countries agreed to investigate existing chemicals in a co-operative way, and to focus on high production volume (HPV) chemicals based on the assumption that production volume is a surrogate for data on occupational, consumer and environmental exposure (Council Acts 1987, 1991). Each country agreed to share the burden of assessing HPV chemicals by sponsoring a proportion of the HPV chemicals in the Programme. By sharing the work, countries and industry have benefitted from the assessments conducted by other member countries and industries.
At the inception of the cooperative assessment work, member countries agreed on a minimum set of information needed for assessing HPV chemicals, called the Screening Information Data Set, or SIDS. At this time, initial risk assessments using the SIDS and detailed exposure data were conducted. These initial assessments were undertaken in OECD's HPV Chemicals Programme for screening purposes and to identify any need for further work.
In 1998 the global chemical industry, through the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) initiative, announced its intention to work with OECD by using the OECD HPV Chemicals List to establish a working list of approximately 1000 substances as priorities for investigation (based on presumed wide dispersive use, production in two or more global regions or similarity to another chemical meeting either of these criteria). To significantly increase the output of the Programme and make best use of the industry initiatives, a major refocusing was agreed by OECD member countries in 1998, with the aim of increasing transparency, efficiency and productivity and allow longer-term planning for governments and industry. Therefore, the OECD work began to focus on initial hazard assessments of HPV chemicals and no longer included extensive exposure information gathering and evaluation. Instead, detailed exposure assessments could be conducted within national (or regional) programmes and priority setting activities as post-SIDS work. During the late 1990s, member countries also began to assess groups of chemicals (chemical categories) and use (Q)SAR results, spurring the creation of OECD guidance documents as well as a computerized QSAR Toolbox.
Over the next few years, comprehensive chemical assessment programmes were implemented at national or regional levels. The programme therefore needed to be revised to allow member countries and other stakeholders to save more resources and to avoid duplication. This evolution also promoted integrated approaches to testing and assessment. With this new direction, the OECD HPV Chemicals Programme evolved into the OECD Cooperative Chemicals Assessment Programme to better respond to the needs of member countries.