EPA Strengthens Chemical Assessment Process to Protect Public Health

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced changes to its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program to improve the scientific foundation of assessments, increase transparency in the program and the process and allow the agency to produce more IRIS assessments each year.  IRIS is a human health assessment program that evaluates information on health effects that may result from exposure to environmental contaminants. These high quality, science-based health assessments are used to inform decisions to protect public health and the environment.

“EPA is committed to producing high quality scientific assessments in a timely and transparent manner,” said Lek Kadeli, principal deputy assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development.  “The improvements announced today will further strengthen our IRIS assessments and enable the agency to better protect human health and the environment by completing more health assessments for chemicals that are being used across our country every day.”

Consistent with recommendations from the National Research Council, EPA will now begin releasing preliminary materials and hold a public meeting early in the assessment development process to explain the criteria for selecting studies and to ensure that critical research was not omitted. Meeting with the public earlier in the process will result in more timely opportunities for the public to provide input into the assessment and comment on the information available for each chemical assessed.

EPA is also using a new document structure for IRIS assessments that is clearer, more concise and more systematic to make the information more accessible.  To improve transparency, the agency is enhancing the IRIS website by providing more detailed information regarding assessment schedules, stakeholder meetings and updates on IRIS progress. 

Additionally, the agency is implementing “stopping rules” for IRIS that will provide a cut-off point for accepting new data for individual IRIS assessments and raising scientific issues related to the assessment. With these changes, EPA’s goal is to increase the number of assessments being completed each year and provide more accurate assessment development timelines to the public.

The IRIS database contains crucial information about how and at what level chemicals may impact human health.  When combined with exposure information, governments and private entities use IRIS to help characterize the public health risks of chemical substances, thereby supporting risk management decisions designed to protect public health.

More information about IRIS: http://www.epa.gov/iris

More information about the IRIS process: http://www.epa.gov/iris/process.htm