of Toxiocology and Environmental Health (JTEH)
A Hierarchical Approach to Coding Chemicals,
Biological and Pharmaceutical Substances
systematic approach to coding chemicals, biological and pharmaceutical
substances in a hierarchical manner using 3 and/or 10 digit codes was
published in a special issue of the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental
Health, Part B (Volume 8, Numbers 3-5;145-452) in 2005 with Guest Editors
Pierre R. Band and Daniel Krewski.
coding system” was developed by British Columbia Cancer Agency, Cancer
Control Research Program in collaboration with the Department of Chemical and
Biological Engineering at the University of British Columbia. The first level
of coding with 3-digits allows classification of a substance according to its
use in an occupational environment (e.g. pesticide, catalyst). In level II
of the coding system, the substances could be coded using 10-digit codes that
indicate the structure and composition of the substances. Where the substances
have no application in industry they can be coded based on structure and composition
alone. This coding system provides codes for 99 general categories, with up
to 10 subcategories. The coding of these substances are in accordance with
the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemists (IUPAC) and the International
Union of Biochemists (IUB) nomenclature rules. However, the coding of complex
biomolecules (e.g., influenza vaccine) was based on plant or animal taxonomy.
coding system provides flexibility in analyzing the substances according to
3-, or 10-digit codes, or both. In addition this system allows grouping of
similar substances for the purposes of analysis. The 3-digit codes, which were
based on industrial application of substances, are predominantly utilized in
occupational epidemiology studies.
two digits of the 3-digit codes represent the general category of a substance
(e.g., pesticide), while the third digit indicates specific subcategory (e.g.,
fungicide, herbicide). The first digit of the10-digit codes indicates the overall
composition of substances, which differentiates between inorganic substances,
organic compounds, pharmaceuticals, biomolecules (e.g., amino acids, enzymes)
and other substances of biological origin (e.g., influenza vaccine). The coding
strategy for digits 2 through 10 is dependent on the broad group of substances
(i.e., first digit). For example, the 2 through 10 digits in a 10-digit code
of an inorganic substance was based on the properties of principle elements
and the secondary groups present in the substance. Similarly, organic compounds
were coded based on the parent and functional groups of the substances. Pharmaceutical
agents were coded based on biological origin, route of administration, drug
description and identification, and presence of metals and/or halogen atoms.
Biomolecules were coded based on biological origin and complexity of substances
(antibody, heterogeneous biomolecules or single biomolecules).
also allows coding of complex substances, such as inorganic acid or basic salts,
substances containing both inorganic and organic compounds, and other complex
biomolecules by building on the framework developed for their respective simpler
substances. The coding manual also provides various examples for coding these
substances and elaborates on the variations in codes between different groups.
system however has some limitations. The organic or inorganic substances with
more than two functional groups or two cations and anions, respectively, can
not be coded with complete specificity. The isomers of organic compounds also
can not be differentiated. A university level background in chemistry is required
to use this coding system however it is fairly easy to learn for the individuals
who intend on using the system for the purpose of analysis.
Keefe AR, Bert JL, Grace JR, Makaroff SJ, Lang BJ, Band PR.A hierarchical
approach to coding chemical, biological and pharmaceutical substances.
J Toxicol Environ Health Part B Crit Rev. 2005;8(3-5):145-452.
Published twenty-four times per year, the Journal of Toxicology
and Environmental Health, Part A features strictly refereed
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as well as in special interest fields such as target organ toxicities,
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environmental factors affecting health, and aquatic toxicology.
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