Friday, July 15, 2011

GAO Tells Congressional Panel It Will Review Changes to IRIS Chemical Assessment Process

At a House Science Committee hearing this week, GAO environmental department director David Trimble testified that the GAO was currently undertaking a review of EPA's revised 2009 IRIS assessment process and how EPA was proceeding in implementing changes recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.  Trimble indicated that the 2009 revisions "appeared to represent significant improvement, but the viability of the IRIS program will depend on effective and sustained management and oversight."  The process revisions were initiated by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson following extensive complaints about the quality of assessments performed during the Bush Administration.

IRIS refers to the Integrated Risk Information System, a human health assessment program that "evaluates quantitative and qualitative risk information on effects that may result from exposure to environmental contaminants...The information in IRIS is intended for those without extensive training in toxicology, but with some knowledge of health sciences."

In their continuing efforts to improve the oft-maligned program, EPA on July 12, 2011 announced plans "to further strengthen and streamline" IRIS and implement the April 2011 recommendations by the National Academy of Sciences.  According to EPA:

The most recent improvements include: reducing volume and redundancy of assessments; fuller discussion of methods and concise statements of criteria used in studies for hazard evaluation; clearer articulation of the rationale and criteria for screening studies; implementing uniform approaches for choosing studies and evaluating their findings; and describing the determinants of weight that were used in synthesizing the evidence. In addition, EPA is working to set up a dedicated advisory committee that will exclusively focus on the quality, transparency and scientific rigor of IRIS assessments. EPA will also create a peer consultation step early in the development of major IRIS assessments. Continually improving the IRIS program is an ongoing priority for the Agency, and these efforts work towards this goal.

The full testimony of David Trimble can be read here.

No comments: