Wednesday, July 29, 2009

EPA Chemical Assessments: Process Reforms Offer the Potential to Address Key Problems

This testimony by the Government Accountability Office (GAO-09-774T) dated June 11, 2009 states:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) contains EPA’s scientific position on the potential human health effects of exposure to more than 540 chemicals.

In March 2008, GAO reported that the viability of the IRIS program is at risk because EPA has been unable to complete timely, credible chemical assessments or decrease its backlog of ongoing assessments. In addition, assessment process changes EPA had recently made, and other changes it was considering at the time of GAO’s review, would have further reduced the timeliness, credibility, and transparency of IRIS assessments.

Overall, EPA’s May 2009 IRIS assessment process reforms represent significant improvements and, if implemented effectively, would be largely responsive to GAO’s March 2008 recommendations.

The independence restored to EPA under the new process will be critical to ensuring that EPA has the ability to develop transparent, credible IRIS chemical assessments.Overall, the viability of the IRIS program will depend on effective and sustained management and oversight, especially given the number of factors that can impede the progress of IRIS assessments.

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