US legislation to raise supervision of chemical health assessments

22 December 2011 21:32  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Legislation requiring the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to improve its chemical health assessments is contained in a bill that awaited approval on Thursday by the White House, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said.

Congress last week approved HR 2055, an omnibus bill that includes language requiring the EPA to make improvements to the 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 programme has come under heavy criticism from the chemicals industry, members of Congress and, more recently, in a review by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). In April, the academy 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.

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”.

HR 2055 directs the EPA to implement the NAS’s recommendations on the EPA’s draft assessment of formaldehyde and to submit a progress report to Congress regarding ongoing and future assessments, the ACC said.

IN addition, the bill calls for an NAS review of the conclusions for formaldehyde and styrene in the National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) 12th Report on Carcinogens.

ACC president Cal Dooley praised the bill, saying Congress “has taken an important step to improve the science used by the Obama Administration to make public health determinations”, adding that the IRIS programme “is untenable and in need of a comprehensive overhaul…”.

Dooley said requiring a scientific peer review by the NAS of the formaldehyde and styrene sections of the 12th annual report on carcinogens by the National Toxicology Program would ensure that “accurate, credible information about these two widely used chemicals will be communicated to the public”.  

More work needs to be done on improving the science at the EPA and the National Toxicology Program, Dooley said.

Dooley sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on 20 December urging her to implement the NAS recommendations regarding the EPA’s health assessment of dioxin.

“EPA now intends to issue the assessment in a piecemeal fashion, with non-cancer and cancer sections issued independent of one another and at different times,” Dooley said.

The splitting of the dioxin assessment “runs counter to the NAS recommendation that IRIS assessments evaluate all relevant health endpoints based on a weight-of-evidence evaluation”.

Additional reporting by Joe Kamalick

By: Brian Ford
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