By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
Research in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD) is organized around six highly integrated and transdisciplinary national research programs that are closely aligned with EPA’s strategic goals and cross-EPA strategies. Each program is guided by a Strategic Research Action Plan (StRAP) developed by EPA with input from its many internal and external partners and stakeholders. In October 2022, EPA published six StRAPs for fiscal years (FY) 2023-2026. EPA states that the StRAP for Chemical Safety for Sustainability (CSS) “is focused on addressing the pressing environmental and health challenge of a lack of sufficient information on chemicals needed to make informed, risk-based decisions.” The StRAP for CSS states that CSS will continue to:
- Develop the science needed to reduce, refine, and replace vertebrate animal testing consistent with EPA policies;
- Accelerate the pace of chemical assessment to enable our partners to make informed and timely decisions concerning the potential impacts of environmental chemicals on human health and the environment; and
- Provide leadership to transform chemical testing, screening, prioritization, and risk assessment practices.
Topic 1, Chemical Evaluation, includes three research areas, including emerging materials and technologies. The StRAP states that emerging materials and technologies often have unique physicochemical properties, warranting specialized approaches for evaluating hazard and exposure, and necessitating an evaluation of the environmental impacts of their use. In addition, investigation of novel products of synthetic biology, genome editing, and metabolic engineering is needed to support risk assessment of emerging biotechnology products. The emerging materials and technologies research area will develop, collate, mine, and apply information on emerging materials and technologies to support risk-based decisions, including potential impacts of disproportionately affected populations. It will address the additional data needed to characterize potential release of and exposure to these chemicals and materials, and subsequent environmental impacts of emerging materials on humans and ecological species. The research area will also address relevant cross-cutting priorities related to cumulative impacts and environmental justice potentially associated with incidental exposures.