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Research project Toxicological Information and Documentation Network presents its first results

22/2002, 11.09.2002

New information system on chemical products and their ingredients in practice

Rapid and reliable information about the ingredients of chemical products is the precondition for the provision of sound advice and treatment in the event of accidents and intoxications. "With the research project Toxicological Documentation and Information Network TDI, we wish to deepen our knowledge about the ingredients of chemical products and their toxicity and, at the same time, to make this expertise available more rapidly to doctors and poison control centres", said Dr. Gerhard Heinemeyer from the expert group, Intoxication Events in the Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine when presenting the first results of the project at the workshop "Toxicological and Information Network - A European challenge?". On 9 and 10 September 2002 experts from Germany and abroad came together in Berlin to discuss initial experience with the already developed computer program which records formulations and documents other important information on products and ingredients.

There are innumerable chemical products on the market, many with the same name but different additives. They must be clearly identifiable as the ingredients responsible for toxicity may differ considerably. The one ingredient may be dangerous, the other harmless. It is of prime importance to determine very quickly which dangerous ingredients are contained in a product as treatment will be oriented towards them. Today, medical assistants and doctors are often at a loss when confronted with cases of intoxication as they often lack this detailed information.

Information about the toxic risks of chemical products is often difficult or even impossible to obtain. This is shown more particularly by experience from the notified cases of intoxication in man. For more than ten years, BgVV has been collecting information about intoxications in accordance with the provisions of the Chemicals Act. It then evaluates this information in close cooperation with the poison control centres in the Federal Republic of Germany. The individual poison control centres, in turn, have important data on intoxication cases as they are normally the first port of call for the family members, the attending doctors or the emergency staff.

In order not only to safeguard but also to constantly improve the quality of toxicological information and, at the same time, to accelerate the flow of information between the institutions concerned and industry, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety initiated and promoted the TDI (Toxicological Documentation and Information Network) research and development project. The participants are the poison control centres, BgVV, the Association of the German Chemical Industry and the German Cosmetics and Detergents Association. The latter represents the manufacturers of most of the chemical products used in the home.

The goal of the project is to give the poison control centres and BgVV rapid and immediate information needed in order to provide advice on cases of intoxication but also to prevent intoxications happening. In TDI a data exchange system is being established by means of which the information can be quickly input and passed on to the project partners. The first stage of the project has just been completed. Thanks to excellent cooperation with the manufacturers of household products, a computer program has been developed which can be used to record the formulations and the other necessary information in the companies and to pass this on to the poison control centres and BgVV. They, in turn, have set up a system which guarantees rapid access to information. In the next stage, the procedure is to be extended in order to be able to exchange experience in providing advice on individual cases of intoxication and the results of toxicological evaluations. This would pave the way for accumulating information from several sources at the same time.

At the workshop discussion focussed on the possibility of extending the TDI system to Europe. In several individual projects experts have been endeavouring for 20 years, both on the level of the European Union and in the World Health Organisation (WHO), to improve cooperation in the field of poison information. The representatives of the poison control centres from many countries and industry agreed that further cooperation steps had to be undertaken and wanted to continue down that path together.

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