Toxicological evaluation and risk assessment of chemical mixtures

Crit Rev Toxicol. 1998 Jan;28(1):73-101. doi: 10.1080/10408449891344164.


A major objective of combination toxicology is to establish whether a mixture of chemicals will result in an effect similar to that expected on the basis of additivity. This requires understanding of the basic concepts of the combined toxicological action of the compounds of the mixture: simple similar action (dose addition), simple dissimilar action (effect or response addition), and interaction (synergism, potentiation, antagonism). The number of possible combinations of chemicals is innumerable, and in vivo testing of these mixtures is unattainable from an ethical, economical, or pragmatic perspective. Prediction of the effect of a mixture based on the knowledge of each of the constituents requires detailed information on the composition of the mixture, exposure level, mechanism of action, and receptor of the individual compounds. Often, such information is not or is only partially available and additional studies are needed. Research strategies and methods to assess joint action or interaction of chemicals in mixtures such as whole mixture testing, physiologically based toxicokinetic modeling and isobologram and dose response surface analyses are discussed. Guidance is given for risk assessment of both simple and complex mixtures. We hypothesize that, as a rule, exposure to mixtures of chemicals at (low) non-toxic doses of the individual constituents is of no health concern. To verify the hypothesis is a challenge; to timely detect exceptions to the rule is the real challenge of major practical importance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Interactions*
  • Drug Synergism
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • International Cooperation
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Statistical
  • No-Observed-Adverse-Effect Level
  • Rats
  • Risk Assessment
  • Xenobiotics / pharmacokinetics
  • Xenobiotics / toxicity*


  • Xenobiotics