Prioritisation of substances

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The French Agency for Food, Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) leads the task on the prioritisation of substances, supported by a team of experts from VITO and the German Environment Agency.

The objective of the prioritisation of substances was to implement a systematic and science-based approach to ranking substances against a set of prioritisation criteria.

The propose set of prioritisation criteria included:

  • hazardous properties;
  • exposure, including environmental, consumer and occupational exposure pathways;
  • regulatory status;
  • societal concern; and
  • technical feasibility.

However, when scoring the substances, it was not considered possible to robustly score substances on the basis of the regulatory status, since this is a very broad category. In addition, HBM4EU deliberately aims to produce evidence on substances that are not well known, and therefore likely to not be covered by existing regulations. It was also not considered relevant to score substances against technical feasibility. Rather information against these two criteria were considered in the broader reflections on categorisation of the substances on the short list after the scoring and ranking (see section 8.3.1 below). Thus substance were only scored against three criteria: hazardous properties, exposure and societal concern.

Partners involved in this work met at a workshop in November 2017, in order to review the results of the mapping of knowledge needs and plan the work to revise the draft background documents and score and categorise the substances.

Single substances and substance groups were scored according to guidance, partly employing an adapted Delphi method involving the participation of experts from ANSES, the German Environment Agency and VITO in a dedicated workshop organised by ANSES in February 2017. In order to draw in a broader range of expertise, experts from other work packages were invited, including WP8 (targeted field work surveys), WP15 (mixtures) and WP16 (emerging substances) were also invited, in order to capture a broad range of expertise.

Once the substances had been scored, they could then be ranked according to the scores. The aim of ranking substances on the short list produced under the mapping of knowledge needs was to inform a decision on which substances to include on the 2nd list of HBM4EU Priority Substances.

In addition, substances on the short list were categorised from A to D. The categories provide information on the current level of a substance’s available knowledge under the criteria of hazardous properties, exposure characteristics and availability of validated HBM measurement methods. They also provide us with an indication towards the current regulation status of a substance.

This information served to inform a reflection by the HBM4EU Management Board and the EU policy Board on the kind of research that can be conducted on specific substances, and the allocation of work across HBM4EU work packages.

Key steps in the prioritisation of substances are listed below. Click on the step for a detailed description of the process and results.

  • Step 5: Producing draft background documents on all substances on the short list by mapping the information submitted in the online survey against the five prioritisation criteria. Undertaking an expert review and revision of the background documents to include any missing information.
  • Step 6: Scoring the substances on the short list against the prioritisation criteria and categorising substances according to the availability of human biomonitoring data.
  • Step 7: Initial ranking of substances on the short list.
  • Step 8: Consulting the members of the Stakeholder Forum, the EU Policy Board and the National Hubs on the background documents and scores. Reviewing and revising the background document and score for each substance and/or group according to the comments received. Final ranking of substances on the short list.
  • Step 9: Joint meeting of the HBM4EU Management Board and the EU Policy Board to review the final ranking and agree on a draft 2nd list of HBM4EU priority substances, taking into account the results of the prioritisation strategy, available project resources and political priorities.
  • Step 10: Approval of the final list of HBM4EU priority substances by the HBM4EU Governing Board.

The HBM4EU project was launched in 2016 with the aim of improving the collective understanding of human exposure to hazardous chemicals and developing HBM as an exposure assessment method. The project had €74m in funding and jointly implemented by 120 partners from 28 participating countries – 24 EU member states plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Israel and the European Environment Agency. One of its aims was to ensure the sustainability of HBM in the EU beyond 2021. The project ended in June 2022. The website will not be updated any longer, except the page on peer reviewed publications, but will be online until 2032.