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WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 14, 2011) – In testimony today before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology during a hearing examining a program used to assess chemicals American Chemistry Council’s President and CEO Cal Dooley called for an overhaul of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System, or IRIS.
“IRIS is one of the most important programs EPA uses to assess the safety of chemicals. But in recent years, IRIS frequently has been criticized for failing to meet high standards of scientific inquiry, transparency and quality,” Dooley said to the committee.
“While IRIS is a complex program that examines complex issues, the problems can be boiled down to two things,” he explained. “First, IRIS does not reflect modern scientific methods or 21st century knowledge about how chemicals interact in the body at different levels of exposure. Rather, IRIS continues to rely too heavily on outdated assumptions formulated in the 1970s.”
“Second, there is little independence in the program’s peer review process,” Dooley continued. “EPA controls each step of the review process and ultimately decides which recommendations from peer review groups to act upon and which to ignore.”
“IRIS needs a comprehensive overhaul to ensure that assessments are based on proven scientific data and modern scientific understanding,” said Dooley. “The peer review process must be enhanced so there is an honest broker to ensure that IRIS assessments are reviewed independently and recommendations from peer reviews and public comments are adequately incorporated.”
“While EPA announced some process changes earlier this week, and we are pleased that EPA recognizes the program must be reformed, we remain concerned about the lack of a truly independent peer review process,” he told the committee. “ACC continues to believe that NAS should review all pending IRIS assessments to ensure their quality until the systemic problems with the program are fixed. If the improvements announced this week are effective, they will be validated by the NAS reviews.”
“The current deficiencies and lack of confidence in the program cause delays and unnecessary costs,” Dooley concluded. “Flawed assessments create public confusion, unwarranted alarm, unnecessary product de-selection and litigation, all of which can put jobs and innovation at risk without sound scientific basis. By making needed changes to IRIS, we can minimize delays and provide answers to the public, public health professionals and industry in a far more credible and timely way.”