EDF lends strong support to EPA’s IRIS Program in comments at National Academies workshop

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

Last week the National Academies held a public workshop as part of its review of changes that have been made, or that are planned, by the U.S. EPA Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program. The last National Academies review, published in 2014, pointed to significant advancements the program had already achieved since its prior 2011 report:

Overall, the committee finds that substantial improvements in the IRIS process have been made, and it is clear that EPA has embraced and is acting on the recommendations in the NRC formaldehyde report. The NRC formaldehyde committee recognized that its suggested changes would take several years and an extensive effort by EPA staff to implement. Substantial progress, however, has been made in a short time, and the present committee’s recommendations should be seen as building on the progress that EPA has already made.

As I’ve blogged before, the EPA IRIS program is a non-regulatory program that provides critical information and scientific expertise that helps ensure that the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the land where we live, work, and play are safe. For example, the IRIS program has a central role to play in helping address widespread contamination of drinking water with perfluorinated chemicals.

The American public depends on the IRIS program and it is imperative that the program remain intact, housed apart from regulatory parts of the agency, and adequately resourced.

In the comments I provided on behalf of EDF at the meeting, I emphasized that the IRIS program is:

  • critical to protecting public health;
  • making significant progress toward advancing systematic review in chemicals assessment, adopting best practices from the clinical sciences in line with earlier National Academies recommendations;
  • approaching the integration of mechanistic information in chemical assessment in a scientifically sound manner;
  • making important investments in specialized software tools designed to make the development and updating of chemical assessments more efficient; and
  • appropriately and necessarily situated within the science arm of EPA where it is best positioned to conduct strong, independent science.

The IRIS program has unquestionably been responsive to earlier recommendations of the National Academies and is arguably yet again surpassing expectations. The American public depends on the IRIS program and it is imperative that the program remain intact, housed apart from regulatory parts of the agency, and adequately resourced.

A final report by the Committee is expected this spring.

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