Toward refined environmental scenarios for ecological risk assessment of down-the-drain chemicals in freshwater environments

Antonio Franco*, Oliver R. Price, Stuart Marshall, Olivier Jolliet, Paul J. van den Brink, Andreu Rico Artero, Andreas Focks, Frederik De Laender, Roman Ashauer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Current regulatory practice for chemical risk assessment suffers from the lack of realism in conventional frameworks. Despite significant advances in exposure and ecological effect modeling, the implementation of novel approaches as high-tier options for prospective regulatory risk assessment remains limited, particularly among general chemicals such as down-the-drain ingredients. While reviewing the current state of the art in environmental exposure and ecological effect modeling, we propose a scenario-based framework that enables a better integration of exposure and effect assessments in a tiered approach. Global- to catchment-scale spatially explicit exposure models can be used to identify areas of higher exposure and to generate ecologically relevant exposure information for input into effect models. Numerous examples of mechanistic ecological effect models demonstrate that it is technically feasible to extrapolate from individual-level effects to effects at higher levels of biological organization and from laboratory to environmental conditions. However, the data required to parameterize effect models that can embrace the complexity of ecosystems are large and require a targeted approach. Experimental efforts should, therefore, focus on vulnerable species and/or traits and ecological conditions of relevance. We outline key research needs to address the challenges that currently hinder the practical application of advanced model-based approaches to risk assessment of down-the-drain chemicals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-248
JournalIntegrated Environmental Assessment and Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Down-the-drain chemicals
  • Ecological models
  • Ecological risk assessment
  • Environmental scenario
  • Spatial models

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