Before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology last week, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) Vice President of Regulatory and Technical Affairs Mike Walls outlined several ways that federal chemical assessments could be improved.
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.
The following is part of Walls’ testimony.
“Objective scientific analysis and transparency must be at the core of how the federal government evaluates the safety of chemicals. “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. 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.
“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.