Fact Sheet 5 (July 2015)

Incorporation of Bioavailability in the Terrestrial Compartment

The Existing Substances Risk Assessment of Nickel was completed in 2008. The straightforward explanation of the goal of this exercise was to determine if the ongoing production and use of nickel in the European Union (EU) causes risks to humans or the environment.  The European Union launched the Existing Substances regulation in 2001 to comply with Council Regulation (EEC) 793/93.  “Existing” substances were defined as chemical substances in use within the European Community before September 1981 and listed in the European Inventory of Existing Commercial Chemical Substances. Council Regulation (EEC) 793/931 provides a systematic framework for the evaluation of the risks of existing substances to human health and the environment.   

 Photo 1

Barley roots exposed to nickel in two types of soil show different responses due to differences in soil chemistry. 

The conceptual approach to conducting the environment section of the EU risk assessment of nickel included the following steps (Figure 1):  

  • Emissions of nickel and nickel compounds to the environment were quantified for the whole life cycle, i.e., from production, use, and disposal;
  • Concentrations of nickel resulting from these emissions were determined in relevant environmental media (water, sediment, soil, tissue) at local and regional scales (PECs);
  • Critical effects concentrations (PNECs) were determined for each of these relevant environmental media;
  • Exposure concentrations were compared to critical effects concentrations for each of the relevant environmental media (risk characterization); and
  • Appropriate corrective actions (also described as risk management) were identified for situations where exposure concentrations were greater than critical effects concentrations.  Where exposure concentrations were below critical effects concentrations, there was no need for concern or action.

The EU Risk Assessments for Nickel and Nickel Compounds were developed over the period from 2002 to 2008. The Danish Environmental Protection Agency (DEPA) acted as the Rapporteur in this process, in close collaboration with the international nickel industry. EU Risk Assessment Reports (RARs) for the environment for nickel substances (metallic nickel, nickel carbonate, nickel chloride, nickel nitrate, and nickel sulfate) were submitted in the spring of 2008 after thorough review by the Technical Committee on New and Existing Substances (TCNES), which was comprised of technical representatives from the EU Member States. A final peer review was provided by the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) (see Section Links to Ni EU Risk Assessment Documents). The European Commission’s Institute for Health and Consumer Protection published the final Risk Assessment Reports for nickel and nickel compounds in November 2009. 

After the EU RARs received approval within Europe, the data sets were discussed at the international level within the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The nickel ecotoxicity data sets used in the EU RARs were accepted at the OECD’s SIDS (Screening Level Information Data Set) Initial Assessment Meeting (SIAM 28, October 2008), as was the use of nickel bioavailability models (BLMs) to normalize the nickel ecotoxicity data.

Fact Sheet 5


Incorporation of Bioavailability in the Terrestrial Compartment