Procedures for calculating benchmark doses for health risk assessment

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 1998, 28 (2), pp. 150 - 164
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Safety assessment for noncancer health effects generally has been based upon dividing a no observed adverse effect (NOAEL) by uncertainty (safety) factors to provide an acceptable daily intake (ADI) or reference dose (RfD). Since the NOAEL does not utilize all of the available dose-response data, allows higher ADI from poorer experiments, and may have an unknown, unacceptable level of risk, the benchmark dose (BD) with a specified, controlled low level of risk has become popular as an adjunct to the NOAEL or the low observed adverse effect level (LOAEL) in the safety assessment process. The purpose of this paper is to summarize statistical procedures available for calculating BDs and their confidence limits for noncancer endpoints. Procedures are presented and illustrated for quantal (binary), quasicontinuous (proportion), and continuous data. Quasicontinuous data arise in developmental studies where the measure of an effect for a fetus is quantal (normal or abnormal) but the experimental unit is the mother (litter) so that results can be expressed as the proportion of abnormal fetuses per litter. However, the correlation of effects among fetuses within a litter poses some additional statistical problems. Also, developmental studies usually include some continuous measures, such as fetal body weight or length. With continuous data there generally is not a clear demarcation between normal and adverse measurements. In such cases, extremely high and/or low measurements at some designated percentile(s) can be considered abnormal. Then the probability (risk) of abnormal individuals can be estimated as a function of dose. The procedure for estimating a BD with continuous data is illustrated using neurotoxicity data. When multiple measures of adverse effects are available, a BD can be estimated based on a selected endpoint or the appearance of any combination of endpoints. Multivariate procedures are illustrated using developmental and reproductive toxicity data.
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