Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Published (as Chapter 6) in J. Eriksson et al. (eds.), Regulating Chemical Risks: European and Global Challenges, pp. 85–98; doi: 10.1007/978-90-481-9428-5_6 Copyright © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. Used by permission.


Worldwide, environmental risk assessment strategies are based on the assumption that measuring direct effects of single substances, using a few single species tests, in combination with safety factors correcting for extrapolation inconsistencies, can be used to protect higher levels of biological organization, such as populations and even ecosystems. At the same time, we are currently facing a range of pollution problems (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Series 2005), of which some could at least indirectly be linked to the fact that this assumption may not be fully valid. Consequently, there is an ongoing scientific debate on whether current chemical control protocols are sufficient for protection of ecosystems, and numerous suggestions for improvements have been presented by the scientific community, e.g. alternative tests and testing strategies. On the other hand, few of these suggestions actually reach the regulatory world (or become implemented), and risk assessment today basically follows the same paradigm as 30 years ago. While the new REACH regime is exceptionally ambitious, this chapter observes several problems and gaps in this regulatory framework. We suggest measures and approaches which imply increased ecological realism and understanding in future regulatory work.