Review of the toxicity of chemical mixtures: Theory, policy, and regulatory practice.

L.S. McCarty Scientific Research & Consulting, 94 Oakhaven Drive, Markham, Ont., Canada L6C 1X8.
Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology (Impact Factor: 2.14). 08/2006; 45(2):119-43. DOI: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2006.03.004
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT An analysis of current mixture theory, policy, and practice was conducted by examining standard reference texts, regulatory guidance documents, and journal articles. Although this literature contains useful theoretical concepts, clear definitions of most terminology, and well developed protocols for study design and statistical analysis, no general theoretical basis for the mechanisms and interactions of mixture toxicity could be discerned. There is also a poor understanding of the relationship between exposure-based and internal received dose metrics. This confounds data interpretation and limits reliable determinations of the nature and extent of additivity. The absence of any generally accepted classification scheme for either modes/mechanisms of toxic action or of mechanisms of toxicity interactions is problematic as it produces a cycle in which research and policy are interdependent and mutually limiting. Current regulatory guidance depends heavily on determination of toxicological similarity concluded from the presence of a few prominent constituents, assumed from a common toxicological effect, or presumed from an alleged similar toxic mode/mechanism. Additivity, or the lack of it, is largely based on extrapolation of existing knowledge for single chemicals in this context. Thus, regulatory risk assessment protocols lack authoritative theoretical underpinnings, creating substantial uncertainty. Development of comprehensive classification schemes for modes/mechanisms of toxic action and mechanisms of interaction is needed to ensure a sound theoretical foundation for mixture-related regulatory activity and provide a firm basis for iterative hypothesis development and experimental testing.

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