A retain and refine approach to cumulative risk assessment

Marc C. Kennedy*, Andy D.M. Hart, Johannes W. Kruisselbrink, Marco van Lenthe, Waldo J. de Boer, Hilko van der Voet, Emiel Rorije, Corinne Sprong, Jacob van Klaveren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Mixtures of substances to which humans are exposed may lead to cumulative exposure and health effects. To study their effects, it is first necessary to identify a cumulative assessment group (CAG) of substances for risk assessment or hazard testing. Excluding substances from consideration before there is sufficient evidence may underestimate the risk. Conversely, including everything and treating the inevitable uncertainties using conservative assumptions is inefficient and may overestimate the risk, with an unknown level of protection. An efficient, transparent strategy is described to retain a large group, quantifying the uncertainty of group membership and other uncertainties. Iterative refinement of the CAG then focuses on adding information for the substances with high probability of contributing significantly to the risk. Probabilities can be estimated using expert opinion or derived from data on substance properties. An example is presented with 100 pesticides, in which the retain step identified a single substance to target refinement. Using an updated hazard characterisation for this substance reduced the mean exposure estimate from 0.43 to 0.28 μg kg-bw−1 day−1 and reduced the 99.99th percentile exposure from 24.9 to 5.1 μg kg-bw−1 day−1. Other retained substances contributed little to the risk estimates, even after accounting for uncertainty.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111223
JournalFood and Chemical Toxicology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • Cumulative assessment group
  • Mixtures
  • Pesticides
  • QSAR
  • Relative potency factor
  • Uncertainty


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  • EuroMix: EuroMix


    Project: EU research project

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