Intuitive toxicology in the 21st century-Bridging the perspectives of the public and risk assessors in Europe

Risk Anal. 2024 Mar 15. doi: 10.1111/risa.14296. Online ahead of print.


Three decades ago, several articles on the subjectivity in chemical risk judgments (i.e., labeled "intuitive toxicology") measured the divide between the public and toxicologists with different backgrounds regarding the validity of predicting health effects based on in vivo studies. Similar divides with impacts on societal discourse and chemical risk assessment practices might exist concerning alternative toxicity testing methods (i.e., in vitro and in silico). However, studies to date have focused either on the public's views of in vivo or stem cell testing or on experts' views of in vivo testing and potential alternatives (i.e., toxicologists and medical students), which do not allow for a direct investigation of potential divides. To fill this knowledge gap, we conducted two online surveys, involving members of the German-speaking public in Switzerland and European human health risk assessors, respectively. This article presents the results of these two surveys regarding the divide in the public's and risk assessors' perspectives on risk assessment based on in vivo, in vitro, and in silico testing. Particularly, the survey with the risk assessors highlights that, beyond scientific and regulatory barriers, alternatives to in vivo testing may encounter individual hurdles, such as higher uncertainty associated with them. Understanding and addressing these hurdles will be crucial to facilitate the integration of new approach methodologies into chemical risk assessment practices as well as a successful transition toward next-generation risk assessment, bringing us closer to a fit-for-purpose and more efficient regulatory landscape.

Keywords: chemical risk assessment; intuitive toxicology; new approach methodologies; next-generation risk assessment; risk perception.