EPA years behind in determining risks of hundreds of toxic chemicals
The Environmental Protection Agency is years behind in determining the health the risks associated with exposure to hundreds of toxic chemicals, according to a new report from the Center for Progressive Reform.
Despite an effort by the Obama administration to streamline the process for risk assessments under the EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), which evaluates the risk to human health of a number of contaminants, progress is still slow, the report says.
The EPA completed nine risk assessments of toxic chemicals last year and hopes to complete nine this year. While that’s “an improvement” from the Bush administration, “it would still take approximately 55 years to complete all of the assessments that EPA program offices need to complete statutory responsibilities,” a CPR statement says.
Risk assessments under IRIS are essential for determining the long-term consequences of exposure to certain environmental contaminants. Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), chair of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Technology, put it this way in CPR’s statement on the report: “We can’t wait for clusters of rare cancers or birth defects to tell us the consequences of a chemical exposure.”
Here are some highlights from the report:
- “Thirty-two hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) regulated under the Clean Air Act are not listed in IRIS at all, and 77 are listed but lack inhalation values, hampering the EPA’s ability to conduct residual risk assessments to provide an ample margin of safety.”
- “Three of 71 contaminants regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act are not listed, and neither are 64 of the 156 substances nominated to the Contaminate Candidate List, slowing EPA’s ability to develop enforceable standards for drinking water contamination.”
- “Eighty-seven of the 275 substances frequently found in Superfund sites and identified by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry as “high profile” have not been assessed.”