Clustering a Chemical Inventory for Safety Assessment of Fragrance Ingredients: Identifying Read-Across Analogs to Address Data Gaps

Chem Res Toxicol. 2020 Jul 20;33(7):1709-1718. doi: 10.1021/acs.chemrestox.9b00518. Epub 2020 May 6.


A valuable approach to chemical safety assessment is the use of read-across chemicals to provide safety data to support the assessment of structurally similar chemicals. An inventory of over 6000 discrete organic chemicals used as fragrance materials in consumer products has been clustered into chemical class-based groups for efficient search of read-across sources. We developed a robust, tiered system for chemical classification based on (1) organic functional group, (2) structural similarity and reactivity features of the hydrocarbon skeletons, (3) predicted or experimentally verified Phase I and Phase II metabolism, and (4) expert pruning to consider these variables in the context of specific toxicity end points. The systematic combination of these data yielded clusters, which may be visualized as a top-down hierarchical clustering tree. In this tree, chemical classes are formed at the highest level according to organic functional groups. Each subsequent subcluster stemming from classes in this hierarchy of the cluster is a chemical cluster defined by common organic functional groups and close similarity in the hydrocarbon skeleton. By examining the available experimental data for a toxicological endpoint within each cluster, users can better identify potential read-across chemicals to support safety assessments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cluster Analysis
  • Consumer Product Safety*
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects
  • Cosmetics / chemistry*
  • Cosmetics / classification*
  • Cosmetics / metabolism
  • Databases, Chemical
  • Molecular Structure
  • Odorants / analysis*
  • Organic Chemicals / chemistry*
  • Organic Chemicals / classification
  • Organic Chemicals / metabolism
  • Organic Chemicals / toxicity*
  • Risk Assessment


  • Cosmetics
  • Organic Chemicals