Applying Simulation Science to Estimate Potential Health Effects of Ingesting Copper Naphthenate

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ATSDR helped the Vermont Department of Agriculture’s state veterinarian make a more informed decision on how to respond to dairy goats’ exposure to unknown quantities of copper naphthenate — an oil-based wood preservative — by using simulation science.

The Simulation Science Section in ATSDR’s Office of Innovation and Analytics (OIA) designs and applies computer simulation models to evaluate and reduce environmental exposure to toxic chemicals. This innovative approach provides ATSDR’s scientists with information about environmental exposures and estimates of toxicity to protect communities. This work helps ATSDR understand how the human body processes and eliminates chemicals after exposure to a hazardous substance. It can even be used instead of animal testing to assess possible health risks from new chemicals.

In 2021, the Vermont Department of Agriculture’s state veterinarian sought ATSDR’s technical assistance regarding exposure of dairy goats to unknown quantities of copper naphthenate. ATSDR had no toxicological profile or minimal risk level (MRL) for copper naphthenate. Building on available knowledge for metallic copper, ATSDR scientists reviewed published toxicokinetic and toxicological information and used established computational approaches to fill gaps in knowledge about the toxicokinetic properties of copper naphthenate. ATSDR was then able to estimate the time required for copper naphthenate to be removed from the goat’s body by natural processes, as well as other toxicokinetic properties of copper naphthenate.

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ATSDR’s work helped the state make a more informed decision on the proper response to the exposure incident. ATSDR plans to use the knowledge and lessons learned from this work to

  • Demonstrate how complex mixtures, such as copper naphthenate, can be generated into its constituents, copper, and naphthenate, to assess the chemical as a whole
  • Offer more technical assistance to predict toxicity endpoints for similar hazardous chemical incidents
  • Develop a manuscript addressing how approaches such as read-across, trend analysis, or quantitative structure-activity relationship modeling can be applied to fill data gaps and estimate residence times

In the years to come, ATSDR looks forward to using this process to

  • Enhance the toxicokinetic database of copper naphthenate
  • Better understand animal and human biological processes
  • Decrease response time for similar incidents in the future