Risk Assessment

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Jonathan Corley
(202) 249-6524

Developing an effective process for assessing chemicals is not only crucial for creating information about potential risks, but also for the development of regulations that protect human health and the environment while preserving America’s ability to innovate.

Policy Background

Federal assessments of chemical hazards and risks focus on understanding the inherent properties of substances in order to determine the likelihood of harm from a specific exposure. The public, businesses and regulators at all levels of government look to these assessments as a reliable source of information on the potential hazards and risks associated with chemicals.

Assessments are a critical part of the decision-making process for chemical management regulatory programs (e.g., Toxic Substances Control Act) and environmental regulations (e.g., Clean Air Act). Access to accurate and useful data regarding potential hazards and risks is necessary for these programs to effectively protect human health and the environment, and provide for the responsible development and use of chemicals that are vital to everyday life.

According to recent reports and studies from organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) review of EPA’s draft assessment of formaldehyde, the scientific foundation underpinning federal programs must be improved to they produce timely and credible risk assessments.

Sound science and transparency must be at the core of how the federal government evaluates the safety of chemicals. Flawed assessments can contribute to a lack of confidence in chemical management programs and environmental regulations. They also can create public confusion; cause unwarranted alarm; and may lead to unnecessary cost, product de-selection and litigation, all of which ultimately can have negative economic impacts without sound scientific basis.

ACC released a set of principles to support the effort to improve assessments so they provide reliable information regarding the potential hazards and risks associated with certain chemicals. Improving the quality of these assessments will lead to significant benefits for everyone by driving better public health decisions that are based on accurate information. And, it will allow for public and private sector resources to be focused on protecting the public and the environment while still promoting American jobs and innovation.

Policy Position

  • Before beginning an assessment, key issues should be identified upfront, and stakeholders must be engaged in problem formulation and scoping. Modern scientific policies and practices should be utilized instead of relying on outdated assumptions and default approaches.
  • Assessors should develop and apply consistent criteria for evaluating data and for selecting studies used in assessments. All assessments must be based on a framework that takes into account—and integrates—all relevant studies, while giving the greatest weight to the most relevant and highest quality studies.
  • Transparency in the chemical review process must be increased by providing full disclosure of underlying data and key information used to develop the assessment. Both hazards and risks must be characterized accurately and in a manner that is relevant to actual human exposure.
  • To ensure the value and objectivity of assessments, all chemical assessments must be subject to robust review by independent experts and peer review panels. Additionally, accountability and transparency can be ensured by improving the process to fully address expert findings and public comments.

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