Wikoff D, Urban JD, Harvey S, Haws LC. 2018. Role of risk of bias in systematic review for chemical risk assessment: A case study in understanding the relationship between congenital heart defects and exposures to trichloroethylene. Int J Toxicol, DOI: 0.1177/1091581818754330.
The National Academy of Science has recommended that a risk of bias (RoB; credibility of the link between exposure and outcome) assessment be conducted on studies that are used as primary data sources for hazard identification and dose–response assessment. Few applications of such have been conducted. Using trichloroethylene and congenital heart defects (CHDs) as a case study, we explore the role of RoB in chemical risk assessment using the National Toxicology Program’s Office of Health Assessment and Translation RoB tool. Selected questions were tailored to evaluation of CHD and then applied to 12 experimental animal studies and 9 epidemiological studies. Results demonstrated that the inconsistent findings of a single animal study were likely explained by the limitations in study design assessed via RoB (eg, lack of concurrent controls, unvalidated method for assessing outcome, unreliable statistical methods, etc). Such limitations considered in the context of the body of evidence render the study not sufficiently reliable for the development of toxicity reference values. The case study highlights the utility of RoB as part of a robust risk assessment process and specifically demonstrates the role RoB can play in objectively selecting candidate data sets to develop toxicity values.