Risky business

15 December 2017

The EPA approves all hazardous substances manufactured in or imported into New Zealand.

We do that by evaluating the hazards and risks associated with these substances whether we’re considering new or reassessing existing applications. 

Each assessment considers the environmental fate of the substance, paying particular attention to how and where the substance might end up, and how long it will remain in the environment. The answers enable us to estimate possible exposure to humans and the environment.

Our ecotoxicology and toxicologyevaluations then consider how living things, including humans, might interact with the substance and considers probable or likely exposure effects.

By combining all of this information we are able to develop an estimate of the likely risk of the substance to New Zealand’s flora and fauna.

Significant work is being performed internationally in the field of risk assessment. The EPA works with many international groups to ensure our methods and approaches are appropriate, up to date, relevant and align with global best practice.

Recently Gayle Holmes and Marieke Soeter (from our Hazardous Substances team) discussed such issues with colleagues at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) conference in Minneapolis, USA.

The conference, while focused on risk assessment and risk management of hazardous substances in the environment, covered scientific, legislative and political developments.

Says Marieke: “Of particular interest were the sessions held by the US EPA on their Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and the TSCA Inventory of chemical substances, as well as some of their current monitoring and evaluation research.

“As we are about to enter a new phase of modernisation of our hazardous substance management regime here in New Zealand, attendance at the conference provided us with links and information regarding the current global regulatory and technical landscape on the risk assessment and risk management of hazardous substances.”