Proctor DM, Bhat V, Suh M, Reichert H, Jiang X, Thompson CM. 2021. Inhalation cancer risk assessment for environmental exposure to hexavalent chromium: Comparison of margin-of-exposure and linear extrapolation approaches. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 124:104969, doi.org/10.1016/j.yrtph.2021.104969.
Hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] exists in the ambient air at low concentrations (average upper bound ~0.1 ng/m3) yet airborne concentrations typically exceed EPA’s Regional Screening Level for residential exposure (0.012 ng/m3) and other similar benchmarks, which assume a mutagenic mode of action (MOA) and use low-dose linear risk assessment models. We reviewed Cr(VI) inhalation unit risk estimates developed by researchers and regulatory agencies for environmental and occupational exposures and the underlying epidemiologic data, updated a previously published MOA analysis, and conducted dose-response modeling of rodent carcinogenicity data to evaluate the need for alternative exposure-response data and risk assessment approaches. Current research supports the role of non-mutagenic key events in the MOA, with growing evidence for epigenetic modifiers. Animal data show a weak carcinogenic response, even at cytotoxic exposures, and highlight the uncertainties associated with the current epidemiological data used in risk assessment. Points of departure from occupational and animal studies were used to determine margins of exposure (MOEs). MOEs range from 1.5 E+3 to 3.3 E+6 with a median of 5 E+5, indicating that current environmental exposures to Cr(VI) in ambient air should be considered of low concern. In this comprehensive review, the divergent results from default linear and MOE assessments support the need for more relevant and robust epidemiologic data, additional mechanistic studies, and refined risk assessment strategies.