Our last course of the first year was “health risk assessment” and last month, I wrote about our study trip to the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI), which was part of this course. But in this blog, I will briefly review the whole course!
The course was divided into two parts – lectures and risk assessment assignments. The lectures covered a broad range of topics such as, introduction to different international risk assessment agencies, for example, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), European Food Agency (EFSA), European Medicals Agency (EMA), Medical Products Agency (MPA) and many more! The lecturers were given by actual people working at these agencies. Sometimes, the lectures were a bit overlapping and confusing since the agencies do work in quite similar ways, but it was nice to get an overview.
Parallel to all the lectures there was one group assignment: Risk assessment of a compound suspected to be harmful to humans. Each group was assigned a different compound and each week, one part of the risk assessment (exposure assessment, hazard assessment or risk characterization) was supposed to be handed in. The goal of the group assignment was to gain a deeper understanding of the whole process of risk assessment in a real situation. It was interesting to see that we would sometimes come up with different conclusion based on our own risk assessment. The course ended with the final presentation of the risk assessment of the assigned compounds and an exam.
In between, there were also short workshops and one of the highlights of the course was the QSAR workshop. The QSAR (Quantitative structure-activity relationship) toolbox is a computer-based toolbox developed by the OECD to investigate the toxicity of compounds based on similarity of chemical structures. As I mentioned in my previous blogs, it is becoming more common to use computational models in toxicology and apparently the QSAR results are valid as part of your evidence in your risk assessment!
In conclusion, the health risk assessment course was very practical and an opportunity to learn what it would be to work as a risk assessor for different risk assessment agencies. The course came along with many discussions and disagreements, but this is the case within expert groups as well! Everybody has a different opinion on the weight of different evidence and reaching an agreement is not as easy as I thought.
Well, that was the end of the first year! It is difficult to digest what we have learned so far, but one thing is sure, we all need holiday. Since the beginning of June, it’s summer holiday at KI and many of the toxicology students are going back to their home country but some are actually staying in Sweden to work over the summer.
Have a nice summer!
All photos were taken by Diana Kättström