Member Scholars Pen Letter to OMB on Attacks on EPA's IRIS Toxics Database

Ben Somberg

July 8, 2011

Last month, the American Chemistry Council sent a letter to Jacob Lew, Director of the Office of Managmenet and Budget, calling on OMB to “take greater responsibility in the coordination and review of chemical safety assessments” and to “require EPA to submit all ongoing EPA IRIS assessments to the NAS for independent review.” The letter was the latest industry attack on the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), the EPA’s primary toxicological database. IRIS assessments of chemicals are used in regulatory decisions to protect the public, safety decisions by industry, and as evidence offered in litigation.

Today CPR President Rena Steinzor and Member Scholar Wendy Wagner wrote to Lew to rebut the ACC’s arguments, and to urge OMB not to take an inappropriate role in scientific assessments:

ACC’s request that OMB play a larger role in the scientific work of conducting IRIS assessments is a thinly veiled attempt to slow the IRIS process and thereby prevent EPA from promulgating rules that will directly benefit public health and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans. Not only will these requested delays create more work for any agency involved, including OMB, but this unnecessary review will significantly increase the costs of regulating by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars for each new IRIS assessment.

Steinzor and Wagner also argued that review of IRIS assessments by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) would serve to delay assessments:

Contrary to ACC’s implications, perfection in an IRIS assessment will not be achieved through recurring NAS review. The science of toxicology is inherently uncertain and reasonable scientists will have different interpretations of the available data. More research will always be possible. That is why Congress empowered EPA to act with precaution to protect the public and the environment from toxic chemicals. If EPA had to obtain two rounds of NAS review for each and every IRIS assessment, as ACC requests for the next two years, the agency would fall even further behind in promulgating required rules, which would directly result in the loss of millions of dollars and human lives.

The full letter is here.

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