What’s New at One of the World’s Most Popular Collections of Risk Databases

What’s New at One of the World’s Most Popular Collections of Risk Databases
RiskWorld has delved into a national treasure trove of human health and environmental data that once was the domain of risk analysts and other professionals but is increasingly used by nursing moms, hobbyists, homemakers, and other consumers. In her upcoming two-part series, Evans examines the recent expansion of topics and accessibility of these resources, offering readers an overview of what’s new, what’s often overlooked, and what’s the most popular of the online databases at the National Library of Medicine’s TOXNET (TOXicology Data NETwork) web site, which is available at no charge to the public and professionals alike.

Pertti (Bert) Hakkinen, the acting head of the National Library of Medicine’s Office of Clinical Toxicology in the Specialized Information Services division, which oversees some of the databases, said that NLM staff members have been working hard to expand both the range of data available and its accessibility. “Our databases get accessed quite a bit by users around the world, but we’d like to increase awareness among risk professionals, the general public, and others.” Hakkinen said. “Our staff has worked hard at making our resources more accessible online, and we’re thoughtfully and continually expanding the breadth and depth of what we offer – we are in the process of adding one on toxicology-related resources for 3-D printing.”

The National Library of Medicine’s resources range from its Household Products Database, which identifies the chemicals used in over 14,000 consumer products and provides access to potential health effects information of each chemical, to LactMed, which tells nursing mothers if a specific chemical or drugs can be passed on to infants through breastmilk. TOXNET’s Hazardous Substance Data Bank, another popular resource, provides information on more than 5,000 hazardous chemicals.

“Many people don’t realize that our resources are not just for professionals,” says Stephanie Publicker, a technical information specialist in the Office of Clinical Toxicology . “For instance, our LactMed database is a database of drugs and chemicals to which breast-feeding mothers might be exposed. The mothers themselves can directly access this data to find out if a certain prescription medicine or a chemical will be passed into breast milk and if it has a potential effect on infants.”

RiskWorld’s two-part series on these resources at the National Library of Medicine will focus on the most-used, the newest, and the most overlooked at what has become one of the world’s most popular online risk databases, with more than 10 million users last year. Watch for the first article to appear in September, with the second article to follow. ~ Former RiskWorld senior editor, Amy Charlene Reed (updated 8/27/2015 and 1/12/2016)