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Modelling the exposure to chemicals for risk assessment: a comprehensive library of multimedia and PBPK models for integration, prediction, uncertainty and sensitivity analysis – the MERLIN-Expo tool

Ciffroy, P., Alfonso, B., Altenpohl, A., Banjac, Z., Bierkens, J., Brochot, C., Critto, A., De Wilde, T., Fait, G., Fierens, T., Garratt, J., Giubilato, E., Grange, E., Johansson, E., Radomyski, A., Reschwann, K., Suciu, N., Tanaka, T., Tediosi, A., Van Holderbeke, M., Verdonck, F.
The Science of the total environment 2016 v.568 pp. 770-784
European Union, air, case studies, crops, decision making, environmental assessment, exposure models, fish, humans, invertebrates, milk, pharmacokinetics, prediction, rivers, screening, soil, surface water, trophic relationships, uncertainty, wildlife
MERLIN-Expo is a library of models that was developed in the frame of the FP7 EU project 4FUN in order to provide an integrated assessment tool for state-of-the-art exposure assessment for environment, biota and humans, allowing the detection of scientific uncertainties at each step of the exposure process. This paper describes the main features of the MERLIN-Expo tool. The main challenges in exposure modelling that MERLIN-Expo has tackled are: (i) the integration of multimedia (MM) models simulating the fate of chemicals in environmental media, and of physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) models simulating the fate of chemicals in human body. MERLIN-Expo thus allows the determination of internal effective chemical concentrations; (ii) the incorporation of a set of functionalities for uncertainty/sensitivity analysis, from screening to variance-based approaches. The availability of such tools for uncertainty and sensitivity analysis aimed to facilitate the incorporation of such issues in future decision making; (iii) the integration of human and wildlife biota targets with common fate modelling in the environment.MERLIN-Expo is composed of a library of fate models dedicated to non biological receptor media (surface waters, soils, outdoor air), biological media of concern for humans (several cultivated crops, mammals, milk, fish), as well as wildlife biota (primary producers in rivers, invertebrates, fish) and humans. These models can be linked together to create flexible scenarios relevant for both human and wildlife biota exposure. Standardized documentation for each model and training material were prepared to support an accurate use of the tool by end-users.One of the objectives of the 4FUN project was also to increase the confidence in the applicability of the MERLIN-Expo tool through targeted realistic case studies. In particular, we aimed at demonstrating the feasibility of building complex realistic exposure scenarios and the accuracy of the modelling predictions through a comparison with actual measurements.