A Unified Probabilistic Framework for Dose-Response Assessment of Human Health Effects. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: When chemical health hazards have been identified, probabilistic dose-response assessment ("hazard characterization") quantifies uncertainty and/or variability in toxicity as a function of human exposure. Existing probabilistic approaches differ for different types of endpoints or modes-of-action, lacking a unifying framework. OBJECTIVES: We developed a unified framework for probabilistic dose-response assessment. METHODS: We established a framework based on four principles: a) individual and population dose responses are distinct; b) dose-response relationships for all (including quantal) endpoints can be recast as relating to an underlying continuous measure of response at the individual level; c) for effects relevant to humans, "effect metrics" can be specified to define "toxicologically equivalent" sizes for this underlying individual response; and d) dose-response assessment requires making adjustments and accounting for uncertainty and variability. We then derived a step-by-step probabilistic approach for dose-response assessment of animal toxicology data similar to how nonprobabilistic reference doses are derived, illustrating the approach with example non-cancer and cancer datasets. RESULTS: Probabilistically derived exposure limits are based on estimating a "target human dose" (HDMI), which requires risk management-informed choices for the magnitude (M) of individual effect being protected against, the remaining incidence (I) of individuals with effects M in the population, and the percent confidence. In the example datasets, probabilistically derived 90% confidence intervals for HDMI values span a 40- to 60-fold range, where I = 1% of the population experiences M = 1%-10% effect sizes. CONCLUSIONS: Although some implementation challenges remain, this unified probabilistic framework can provide substantially more complete and transparent characterization of chemical hazards and support better-informed risk management decisions.

published proceedings

  • Environ Health Perspect

altmetric score

  • 11.08

author list (cited authors)

  • Chiu, W. A., & Slob, W.

citation count

  • 54

complete list of authors

  • Chiu, Weihsueh A||Slob, Wout

publication date

  • December 2015