PARC: European partnership for the assessment of risks from chemicals

The EU-wide research and innovation programme PARC was established in order to improve the risk assessment and sustainability of chemicals. The PARC project will strengthen the scientific basis for the assessment of risks from chemicals and make next-generation risk assessment possible in order to improve the protection of human and environmental health. The project is part of the European Union’s Horizon research and innovation programme (2021-2027).

Clean habitat

The European chemicals strategy – the EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability – outlines the ambitions needed to provide a clean habitat free of pollution from undesirable chemicals in the environment. The PARC project (Partnership for the Assessment of Risks from Chemicals) is part of this strategy and the aim is to further the implementation of that strategy. The project brings risk assessors and policymakers together, with scientists, so that the methods required can be developed faster, and so that data and knowledge will be more easily available.

Principal objectives

In collaboration with the European authorities EEA, EFSA and ECHA, the knowledge questions are being mapped out in order to make it possible to interpret the risks of chemical substances and to provide the appropriate solutions. The project will strengthen the scientific basis for the assessment of risks from chemicals and make next-generation risk assessment possible in order to improve the protection of human and environmental health.

The principal objectives of the PARC project are:

  • to develop the scientific knowledge needed to face current and future challenges in the area of chemical safety;
  • to supply those responsible for assessing and managing the risks of chemical exposure with new data, methods and innovative tools;
  • to strengthen the networks of actors who specialise in the different scientific fields that contribute to risk assessment.

KWR’s involvement in the PARC project is contributing themes that are relevant for water quality, and drinking water quality in particular. The areas that KWR will address specifically are monitoring and exposure, risk assessment and data management.

KWR will work specifically in the PARC project on:

  • Contributing to the ongoing development of wastewater-based epidemiology for monitoring human exposure to environmental pollutants. This includes the development of analysis methods to detect and measure exposure biomarkers in waste water and link them to population studies and, ultimately, health endpoints.
  • With other partners, we are working on integrated approaches for testing and assessing potentially adverse effects of substances. This will involve the use of new approaches such as in vitro assays/bioassays and in silico methods. The topics reviewed are DNA damage, endocrine disruption, specific organ toxicity and estimating relevance for humans.
  • KWR is contributing to the refinement or development of physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) models for prioritised individual compounds and mixtures of compounds. The activity focuses on chemicals about which there is limited information, the different sensitivities in physiological processes due to the interindividual variability of subgroups of the population, and the aggregation of different exposure sources and pathways.
  • The model developed by KWR for exposure to lead also allows us to determine exposure to other substances in drinking water. Determining exposure to compounds that are already present in the source and with levels that are not reduced in the mains network is a very simple task. However, KWR can also determine exposure for substances that disappear between source and tap (in the mains network or in the systems indoors) or actually enter the pipes.
  • A small contribution from KWR relates to safeguarding good data quality and availability, and the knowledge relating to the statistical methods that may be applied.

New-generation methods for the assessment of risks from chemicals

The main outcomes are centred around a shared ambition of working towards a new generation of chemical risk assessment methods by:

  • establishing a permanent interdisciplinary network at the European scale to identify and prioritise conceptual, scientific and technical developments, and needs in research and innovation;
  • developing joint research and innovation activities consistent with the identified priorities;
  • strengthening existing capacities for research and innovation, and establishing new interdisciplinary platforms in Europe.

PARC is a European alliance with over 200 partners from 27 countries. The Dutch ministries of Infrastructure and Water Management, Health, Welfare and Sport, and Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality are involved. Direction for the PARC project comes from the Netherlands, and in particular the RIVM, with VU-University, UU-IRAS, TNO, WUR, WFSR, Radboud UMC, Leiden University and KWR as partners. The drinking water companies are supporting KWR’s involvement. This research and innovation programme will run for seven years.