US EPA sets new chemicals science panel in response to criticism

18 November 2011 19:51  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday said it would form a new science advisory panel to guide its chemical assessments, a move that follows sharp criticism of the agency’s scientific conclusions and rulings.

The EPA said that it was inviting public nominations to a new chemical assessment advisory committee that would guide the agency in establishing a sound scientific basis for its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) programme.

The IRIS programme is supposed to assess the health effects of chemicals in commerce and to form the basis for their regulation.

However, that assessment programme has come under heavy criticism from the chemicals industry, members of Congress and, more recently, in a harsh review by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

The NAS issued a report in April this year which challenged the EPA’s “unsupported” scientific conclusions and said that future IRIS assessments would not be valid without a sound science foundation for the programme.

For example, the NAS study found that the EPA’s recent draft assessment of formaldehyde as a carcinogen “was not prepared in a logically consistent fashion, lacked clear links to an underlying conceptual framework and did not sufficiently document methods and criteria used to identify evidence for selecting and evaluating chemical studies”.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private non-profit institution chartered by Congress in 1863 to provide expert scientific advice to the federal government.

Last month, members of Congress demanded that the senior White House science advisor explain what they charged was scientific misconduct at the EPA.

In testimony before Congress, US chemical industry officials have charged that the EPA and its IRIS programme do not meet standards of scientific inquiry, transparency and quality.

 In its announcement on Friday, the EPA said it was forming the new chemical assessment advisory committee specifically to “implement recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences related to the development of IRIS assessments”.

The new chemicals committee would join six other similar panels that together are part of the EPA’s science advisory board (SAB), an overall group that is to guide the agency’s regulatory actions.

The other existing committees on the EPA’s science advisory board include panels on drinking water, human health exposure, radiation and environmental engineering, among others.

The EPA did not say when it expected to form the chemicals committee nor how many members the panel might have.

A website has been set up to accept public nominations to the chemicals committee.

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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