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Vol. 25 No. 1
January - February 2003

Bookworm | Books and publications hot off the press.
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Concise International Chemical Assessment Document

A series of monographs by the International Programme on Chemical Safety

World Health Organization, Geneva (1998-2002)

reviewed by John H. Duffus

Before reviewing this series of publications, it is important to define what they are, what their purpose is, and to describe the procedure by which they are prepared. The procedure is particularly important because it is designed to ensure that the Concise International Chemical Assessment Documents (CICADs) are authoritative and trustworthy sources of the fundamental information required to carry out risk assessments. These assessments then lead to effective risk management of substances used worldwide, helping to ensure human safety and environmental protection.

The CICADs are short documents that provide summaries of the scientific information available on the potential effects of chemicals upon human health and/or the environment. These documents are based on selected national or regional evaluations or on existing International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) Environmental Health Criteria Documents (EHCs). Before acceptance for publication as CICADs by IPCS, the draft documents are subjected to extensive peer review by internationally selected experts to ensure their completeness, accuracy in how the original data are represented, and the validity of the conclusions drawn. Unless otherwise stated, CICADs are based on a search of the scientific literature to the date shown in the executive summary. International Chemical Safety Cards (ICSCs) on the relevant chemical(s) are attached at the end of each CICAD to provide the reader with the essential summary information on the protection of human health and on emergency action. The ICSCs are produced by a separate peer-reviewed procedure. Further information may be obtained from the Poison Information Monographs, also produced by IPCS.

The primary objective of CICADs is to characterize the hazard and dose–response relationship associated with exposure to a chosen priority chemical. CICADs are not a summary of all available data but include only the information considered critical for characterization of risk. Critical studies are described in sufficient detail to indicate how they support the conclusions drawn. Risks to human health and the environment vary depending upon the type and extent of exposure. Users of the CICADs are encouraged to characterize risk on the basis of appropriate locally measured or predicted exposure scenarios. For the readers’ guidance, examples of exposure estimation and risk characterization are provided in CICADs whenever possible.

The flow chart shows the procedures followed to produce a CICAD. The IPCS Risk Assessment Steering Group advises the coordinator, IPCS, on the selection of chemicals for an IPCS risk assessment, the appropriate form of the document (i.e., EHC or CICAD), and which institution should have the responsibility of the document production, as well as on the type and extent of the international peer review. The first draft is based on an existing national, regional, or international review. Authors of the first draft are usually, but not necessarily, from the institution that developed the original review.

The first draft undergoes primary review by IPCS and one or more experienced authors of criteria documents to ensure that it meets the specified criteria for CICADs. The draft is then sent for international peer review by scientists known for their relevant expertise and by scientists selected from an international roster compiled by IPCS through recommendations from IPCS National Contact Points and from IPCS Participating Institutions.

The CICAD Final Review Board ensures that each CICAD has been subjected to an appropriate and thorough peer review; verifies that the peer reviewers’ comments have been addressed appropriately; provides guidance on how to resolve remaining issues if, in the opinion of the board, the author has not adequately addressed all comments of the reviewers; and approves CICADs for publication as trustworthy international assessments. Board members serve in their personal capacity, not as representatives of any organization, government, or industry. They are selected because of their expertise in human and environmental toxicology or because of their experience in the regulation of chemicals and with regard to the need for balanced geographic representation. It is important to note that board members, authors, reviewers, consultants, and advisers who participate in the preparation of a CICAD are required to make a public declaration of any real or potential conflict of interest in relation to the subjects under discussion at any stage of the process in order to ensure impartiality. All of these rules are designed to ensure impartiality and give the CICADs and related documents their authority as the most reliable sources of information for chemical risk assessment.

But what information can you expect to find in a CICAD? The first section is an executive summary, followed by details relating to the identity and physical/ chemical properties of the substance(s) considered and the analytical methods used for monitoring. Then, there are reviews of sources of human and environmental exposure, of the possibilities for environmental transport, distribution, and transformation; and of the current status of environmental and human exposures. Next, the evidence linking exposure (dose) to effects and to population response in laboratory animals and in humans is described and assessed, including that from in vitro studies and from studies of toxico-kinetics and fundamental metabolic processes. Case studies and epidemiological investigations are also considered.

In addition, any information on effects on other organisms in the laboratory and in the field is collated and, finally, an effects evaluation is carried out. This evaluation may lead to suggested criteria for setting tolerable exposure limits or guidance values and suggestions for further research to clarify points of importance. A final section summarizes previous evaluations by international bodies. There is then a list of the references used in preparing the document followed by appendices describing the main source document and listing the members of the peer review group and of the final review board. The relevant ICSCs and French and Spanish translations of the executive summary complete the document.

At the time of writing, more than 40 CICADs have been published and these are listed below.

The Concise International Chemical Assessment Documents

  • Acrylonitrile (No. 39, 2002)
  • Azodicarbonamide (No. 16, 1999)
  • Barium and barium compounds (No. 33, 2001)
  • Benzoic acid and sodium benzoate (No. 26, 2000)
  • Benzyl butyl phthalate (No. 17, 1999)
  • Beryllium and beryllium compounds (No. 32, 2001)
  • Biphenyl (No. 6, 1999)
  • 1,3-Butadiene: human health aspects (No. 30, 2001)
  • 2-Butoxyethanol (No. 10, 1998)
  • Chloral hydrate (No. 25, 2000)
  • Chlorinated naphthalenes (No. 34, 2001)
  • Chlorine dioxide (No. 37, 2002)
  • Crystalline silica, quartz (No. 24, 2000)
  • Cumene (No. 18, 1999)
  • 1,2-Diaminoethane (No. 15, 1999)
  • 3,3’-Dichlorobenzidine (No. 2, 1998)
  • 1,2-Dichloroethane (No. 1, 1998)
  • 2,2-Dichloro-1,1,1-trifluoroethane (HCFC-123) (No. 23, 2000)
  • Diethylene glycol dimethyl ether (No. 41, 2002)
  • N,N-Dimethylformamide (No. 31, 2001)
  • Diphenylmethane diisocyanate (MDI) (No. 27, 2001)
  • Ethylenediamine (No. 15, 1999)
  • Ethylene glycol: environmental aspects (No. 22, 2000)
  • Formaldehyde (No. 40, 2002)
  • 2-Furaldehyde (No. 21, 2000)
  • Limonene (No. 5, 1998)
  • Manganese and its compounds (No. 12, 1999)
  • N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidone (No. 35, 2001)
  • Methyl and ethyl cyanoacrylates (No. 36, 2001)
  • Methyl chloride (No. 28, 2001)
  • Methyl methacrylate (No. 4, 1998)
  • Mononitrophenols (No. 20, 2000)
  • N-nitrosodimethylamine (No. 38, 2002)
  • Phenylhydrazine (No. 19, 2000)
  • N-Phenyl-1-naphthylamine (No. 9, 1998)
  • 1,1,2,2-Tetrachloroethane (No. 3, 1998)
  • 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane (No. 11, 1998)
  • o-Toluidine (No. 7, 1998)
  • Tributyltin oxide (No. 14, 1999)
  • Triglycidyl isocyanurate (No. 8, 1998)
  • Triphenyltin compounds (No. 13, 1999)
  • Vanadium pentoxide and other inorganic vanadium compounds (No. 29, 2001)

It is clear that the CICADs are extremely valuable sources of information for anyone concerned with any aspect of chemical safety. They should be the first resource for valid, independently assessed information against which to judge the often poorly founded assertions made by those who have vested interests in exaggerating risks or in playing them down. Many of the CICADs are available on the IPCS Web site <>. For those interested in the safe use of chemicals, this site contains a treasure chest of freely available information. |

John H. Duffus <[email protected]> worked at the Edinburgh Centre for Toxicology in Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

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