The Environmental Protection Agency placed much of the information it has received on high-production-volume chemicals in an interactive database. But the Web-based system for the public to access this data currently is clunky and hard for all but experts to use, agreed most participants at the first U.S. conference on Characterizing Chemicals in Commerce.
EPA officials said they are working to refine the database's Web interface.
"It was intended for use by a technical audience," said Charles M. Auer, director of EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention & Toxics, but the agency wants to make it usable by the general public.
Participants at the conference offered criticism of the HPV database, as well as the interactive tool for accessing its information.
Because chemicals were tested for the same physiochemical property or toxicological effect under different conditions, it is difficult to compare values, they said. Units of measurement aren't harmonized for all values. And a good portion of the information provided for compounds in the database was not actually measured in a laboratory but was interpolated using data on closely related chemicals. Furthermore, entries into the database lack any comments from EPA on whether the information is adequate or acceptable, they said.
Finding certain chemicals in the database is difficult, they added. They urged the agency to modify the system so that users can search using chemical names rather than relying primarily on Chemical Abstract Service registry numbers.
EPA officials said they are listening to these critiques and are working to resolve the issues.
In addition, some participants were concerned about the quality of the information in the database. For instance, Kristan Markey, an analyst with the watchdog group Environmental Working Group, looked into whether HPV submissions included data that were already publicly available.
Markey examined five HPV Challenge Program chemicals that could be persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. He found that sponsors had interpolated some values, such as octanol-water partition coefficients, for some of the chemicals even though empirical data were available for these compounds in the European Union's International Uniform Chemical Information Database.