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Environmental Protection Agency Announces Changes To Chemical Assessment Program

Agency to seek input as it begins risk assessments of chemicals

by Cheryl Hogue
September 24, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 39

In a major change to its criticized chemicals assessment program, EPA will seek early input about chemicals under review. Stakeholders from industry and other concerned groups will be able to provide their views about a substance’s toxicity before EPA decides what information to rely on for the assessments, according to the agency.

Kenneth Olden, director of EPA's National Center for Environmental Assessment, announced the change last week before a new committee of the National Research Council. NRC is reviewing the agency's chemical hazard assessment database—called the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS)—for Congress.

EPA’s completed IRIS assessments provide scientifically based judgments on the safe dose of a chemical, which is the maximum exposure to the substance that won’t cause health effects. EPA, other federal and state agencies, and some foreign countries use IRIS to guide regulation.

With early input from stakeholders, EPA can work with outside parties to pinpoint gaps in a chemical’s existing toxicity data, Olden said. EPA and stakeholders could then devise a plan, such as jointly funded research, to generate the information before a chemical assessment is complete, he continued.

EPA will also address a major complaint from the chemical industry about IRIS: lack of information about how EPA selects the scientific studies used in assessments. Olden said EPA will set rules for picking scientific studies it will rely on for its review of a chemical.


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