WASHINGTON (July 16, 2014) – American Chemistry Council (ACC) Vice President of Regulatory and Technical Affairs Mike Walls outlined several ways that federal chemical assessments could be improved during testimony today before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology in a joint hearing of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Subcommittee on Environment.
The hearing was held to discuss a recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) review of EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program. Witnesses were asked to offer their views on EPA’s progress on reforming IRIS and how the program can be further improved in light of the report.
Information generated by assessments under IRIS has significant influence on decisions regarding how to manage chemicals. The public, industry and regulators at all levels look to these assessments as a reliable source of information about the potential hazards and risks associated with chemicals. Recognizing ongoing issues with IRIS, several recent reports and studies have called for fundamental improvements to the scientific foundation underpinning federal chemical assessment programs to ensure agencies deliver timely and credible assessments.
“Objective scientific analysis and transparency must be at the core of how the federal government evaluates the safety of chemicals,” said Mr. Walls. “Flawed assessments can contribute to a lack of confidence in federal and state chemical management programs and environmental regulations, all of which routinely rely on the assessments.”
“They can also create public confusion and unwarranted alarm and may lead to unnecessary cost, product de-selection and litigation, which ultimately can have negative economic impacts without sound scientific basis,” he explained. “Moreover, these shortcomings may have further significant unwarranted economic impacts, because risk management decisions throughout the federal government, as well as state governments, routinely draw upon the risk numbers contained in the assessments.”
Earlier this year ACC released a comprehensive set of principles that outlined a series of attainable, high-level benchmarks for modernizing federal chemical assessment programs. While recognizing that EPA has made notable progress toward improving the IRIS program, Mr. Walls offered several recommendations for further improvement drawn from ACC’s principles.
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—indeed all federal chemical assessment programs—must apply a more advanced scientific approach to chemical hazard and risk assessment,” Walls stressed. “The NAS review of the IRIS program in its 2011 and 2014 reports identified important shortcomings across the IRIS program.”
“EPA has made progress in addressing some of the concerns raised in the NAS reports,” Walls continued. “Unfortunately, the most critical changes needed to achieve the scientific standards articulated in the NAS recommendations have not been fully implemented in any draft or final IRIS assessment.”
Areas that still need to be addressed include improving how scientific evidence is evaluated and integrated into assessments, incorporating information on how chemicals interact with the human body, enhancing peer review and improving how information is characterized and communicated to the public.
“We look forward to working with EPA and Congress to ensure that federal chemical assessments meet appropriate standards for quality, reliability and confidence,” Walls concluded.