To narrow down the list of chemicals, among thousands in the environment, that pose risks to people or wildlife, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is turning to computational methods. The agency has $2.4 million in anticipated funding for innovative approaches to virtually mimicking the effects of compounds on living organisms. The specific problem the EPA is concerned with at the program's outset is endocrine disruption, specifically of the brain–pituitary–gonadal and the brain–pituitary–thyroid systems.

"There are 87,000 chemicals in the environment. There is a need for improved approaches for prioritizing which chemicals should be screened and tested," explained Elaine Francis, director of EPA's endocrine disruptors research program. "We would not have to test every chemical for effects, and make better informed decisions as a regulatory agency."

Computational toxicology also could help cut animal testing, the original reason EPA began pursuing the approach 15 months ago, Francis told The...

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