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Four years since the previous EUROTOX meeting in Helsinki, Finland, the 57th International Congress of Toxicology gathered more than 1500 attendees across 65 countries in Ljubljana, Slovenia from 10-13 September 2023. It included an exhibition hall for up to 70 exhibitors as well as a scientific poster exhibition covering 26 topic areas.

Under the theme “Toxicology – multidisciplinary science leading to safer and sustainable life”, the conference explored emerging data in non-animal testing methods (NAMs) and adverse outcome pathways (AOPs) to understand how they can combine with human health risk assessment. While these methods are still under development, ongoing advancements could improve methods to assess the risks of chemicals to human health.

BEST-COST was present in discussions exploring the threat of air pollution towards public health. A session on this topic, initiated by the chair of the local organising committee Dr. Lucija Perharič, provided an overview of air pollution and health, and looked into indoor air quality and toxicological analysis of fire smoke from furniture with and without flame retardants.

During the session, adjunct professor Otto Hänninen from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) presented BEST-COST among other topics to provide details on how BEST-COST researchers are developing new methods to assess the health risks of air pollution. Dr. Hänninen explained how air pollution, and particulate matter in particular, is one of the biggest environmental exposures affecting public health.

Understanding the connection between toxicology and air pollution remains a largely unexplored field. In 2021, the World Health Organization updated its air quality guidelines. These guidelines are based on the latest scientific evidence from environmental epidemiology studies. However, the guidelines are yet to consider the large body of toxicological evidence on the different effects of different types of particulate matter. The challenge the toxicology community faces is to develop new methods to bridge the gap between testing performed in and outside of living organisms.