Overwhelming local support for EPA Chemical Assessment Program: Communities impacted by PFC contamination urge Congress to maintain critical program

Samantha Lovell is a Project Specialist.

Today, a letter signed by more than 100 people was submitted to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees urging Congress to protect the EPA Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program. The signatories come from dozens of communities across the country impacted by PFC contamination in drinking water. EPA’s IRIS program develops critical assessments of chemicals, like PFCs, that support a wide variety of decision-making from clean-up levels at contaminated sites to setting standards that ensure clean drinking water.

As we have blogged about previously, IRIS is a non-regulatory program within EPA’s science arm that produces top-tier chemical hazard assessments used across EPA program and regional offices, other federal agencies, and state and local governments to protect public health. IRIS scientists are also called on during emergency and other rapid response situations, when technical expertise is paramount and time is of the essence.

In November, the Senate Appropriations committee Chairman posted a FY2018 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies bill that would eliminate this vital program.

The letter voices the concerns of community members facing health effects from exposure to PFCs:

Many of us are suffering from high levels of PFCs in our blood, from living without drinkable running water, from ulcerative colitis and other diseases known to be caused by PFCs, and from the loss of loved ones to cancer. Dozens of communities like ours around the country fear that the perfluorinated chemicals in local rivers, streams, and wells is as bad a threat as the ones that devastated Parkersburg, WV and Hoosick Falls, NY.

The IRIS program is critical for understanding the health impacts posed by chemicals like PFCs and for providing scientific guidance to resource-strapped state and local governments. There is no room for eliminating or otherwise undermining the IRIS program.

The letter demonstrates broad local support for IRIS including the scientific support it provides in critical public health situations.

We hope that the committee members take steps to protect the public health of communities across the country by ensuring the IRIS program remains intact, maintains its scientific independence from regulatory parts of the agency, and is sufficiently resourced.

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