PARC - European Partnership for the Assessment of Risks from Chemicals

Last updated on 31-5-2024 by Rachel Simoni
Project duration:
May 1, 2022
April 30, 2029

In short

Sciensano is actively involved in PARC, a European partnership that brings together about 200 cross-sectorial public partners working on chemical risk assessment.

The overall goal of PARC is to advance research, share knowledge and improve skills in chemical risk assessment. By doing so, it supports the European Union’s aim to reduce chemical pollution and to protect, in line with the “One Health” concept, both human health and environment. Further on, the results will help to reduce animal testing and implement strategies for innovative next-generation risk assessment. By bringing chemical risk assessors and managers together with scientists and stakeholders on a national and/or European scale, PARC can accelerate the method development and the generation of necessary data and knowledge, to protect the population and the environment. 

Project description

PARC, partnership for the assessment of risks from chemicals

To which chemicals are humans and the environment exposed? How dangerous are these chemicals? Which chemicals should be studied first? How can we assess the health outcomes associated with exposure to these chemicals? These are only some of the questions that Sciensano will try to address together with nearly 200 PARC partners. The unprecedented scale of the partnership provides an excellent opportunity to boost research and innovation in chemical risk assessment, aiming in particular to:

  • Better anticipate emerging risks;
  • Better account for combined risks;
  • Underpin the concrete implementation of new orientations in European public policies to safeguard health and environment.

PARC supports the European Union’s Chemical Strategy for Sustainability, which aims to significantly reduce substances harmful to health or environment. As such, it paves the way for the ‘Zero pollution ambition’ announced in the European Green Deal. Deal. In Belgium, the PARC project is part of the third National Environement-Health Action Plan (NEHAP3).

The partnership was launched in May 2022, and has a total funding volume of €400 million for seven years. It is funded under the Horizon Europe program with 50% of the budget funded by the European Union and 50% by Member States. Coordination of PARC is ensured by ANSES, the French authority for food safety, environmental protection and occupational health.

More about the PARC consortium

To date, PARC involves nearly 200 partners from 28 countries, as well as three EU agencies (the European Environment Agency – EEA, the European Chemicals Agency – ECHA and the European Food Safety Authority – EFSA). It is bringing into play public partners across the continent, including European and national risk assessment agencies, universities and public research organisations. Five Directorates-General of the European Commission (DG-RTD, DG-GROW, DG-ENV, DG-SANTE and JRC) and the ministries of the countries involved are contributing to the governance of PARC and will monitor its activities.

Belgium is very well represented in the PARC consortium with 12 partners including Flemish universities (UGent, UAntwerpen, UHasselt, VUB, KUL), and public institutes (VITO, ILVO, IsseP, PIH, OVAM, Sciensano and the Environment Department of the Flemish government). Together with VITO, Sciensano is appointed as administrative link between the PARC coordination team and the other Belgian partners.

Within Sciensano, scientists from six different services situated in 3 different scientific directorates, are collaborating in more than 15 PARC projects and transversal activities. Moreover, Sciensano is co-leading the tasks on ‘Quantitative systems toxicology and development of new adverse outcome pathways (AOPs)’ and ‘the development of integrated approaches to testing and assessment’. Both tasks will directly contribute to the application of new innovative testing methods and strategies to evaluate toxicity and thereby contribute to the transition towards next-generation risk assessment, relying less on animal testing. . In addition, Sciensano is also leading the subtask of monitoring the analyses of exposure biomarkers in the general population survey, and the occupational and targeted surveys.

The  PARC projects in which Sciensano is involved cover exposure, hazard as well as risk assessment:

Monitoring of exposure

  • Human biomonitoring (HBM): within the context of the HBM4EU project, a large range of human biomonitoring data has been generated. More information will be generated on exposure sources and routes, exposure-effect  and pathway analyses. The PARC project aims to develop novel statistical approaches to HBM4EU database and Sciensano is participating. In addition, the best suited exposure and effect biomarkers and analytical methods for the HBM surveys are being identified and harmonized. Where possible, innovative tools and methods will be implemented, including the consideration of including genetic and epigenetic biomarkers for an integrated next-generation risk assessment.
  • Environmental and multi-source monitoring: Sciensano is participating in a pilot project focussing on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and endocrine disrupting chemicals  (EDCs) with the purpose to establish and validate environmental monitoring structures. 
  • Harmonisation of quality assurance and quality control: Sciensano is involved in the working group coordinating the harmonization of quality of the data used and generated in PARC.

Hazard assessment

  • Natural toxins: In this project, knowledge gaps for mycotoxins (i.e. enniatins and alternaria toxins) will be addressed. Sciensano will apply both traditional and more innovative methods (i.e. transcriptomics data) to collect genotoxicity data for these important food contaminants.
  • Systems toxicology: Sciensano contributes to different case studies to investigate how transcriptomics data can be used to support regulatory decision making.  

Innovation in risk assessment

  • Integrated approaches to testing and assessment: Sciensano coordinates a project to develop a new innovative animal-free testing strategy for evaluating the ability of chemicals to cause DNA damage.
  • Health impact: Sciensano intensively contributes to the inventory of exposure, health outcomes, and exposure-effect relationship data for some prioritized chemicals (PFAS, pesticides, metals, mycotoxins, endocrine disruptors). The collected data will help to accurately assess the health impact by considering lifestyle, geographical, and socio-economic status variability.
  • Plastic additives: Sciensano will specifically study the regulation aspects of plasticisers for food contact materials and will compare the risk assessment approaches to other regulations. 

Some transversal activities in the PARC project aim to build common resources and databases through the network. Sciensano is, for example, taking part in:

  • the mapping of existing and building of new infrastructural elements/networks (identified gaps) and laboratory capacities related to environmental exposure and monitoring,
  • the mapping and inventorying of capacities and gaps/opportunities related to HBM and longitudinal population cohort studies,
  • the identification and reporting on the internal and external training needs and available training opportunities and networks to develop new or expand existing human capacities.

Financial Source

Associated Health Topics

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