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Keywords:

  • Benchmark analysis;
  • BMD;
  • BMDL;
  • bootstrap confidence limits;
  • dose-response analysis;
  • isotonic regression;
  • toxicological risk assessment

Estimation of benchmark doses (BMDs) in quantitative risk assessment traditionally is based upon parametric dose-response modeling. It is a well-known concern, however, that if the chosen parametric model is uncertain and/or misspecified, inaccurate and possibly unsafe low-dose inferences can result. We describe a nonparametric approach for estimating BMDs with quantal-response data based on an isotonic regression method, and also study use of corresponding, nonparametric, bootstrap-based confidence limits for the BMD. We explore the confidence limits’ small-sample properties via a simulation study, and illustrate the calculations with an example from cancer risk assessment. It is seen that this nonparametric approach can provide a useful alternative for BMD estimation when faced with the problem of parametric model uncertainty.