In July 2018, Representative Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) introduced H.R.6399, a bill was introduced in Congress to eliminate the EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program. Known as the Chemical Assessment Improvement Act (the “Act”), the bill would require evaluations under IRIS to be moved to the EPA’s “relevant program office” and mandate that assessments be handled in a “manner consistent with the best available science.” The Act also calls for assessments to be reviewed by third-parties.
IRIS was originally designed to identify and characterize the health hazards of chemicals found in the environment. The evaluations conducted under the auspices of the IRIS often become the basis of regulatory action taken by the EPA and other regulatory agencies. For example, these evaluations are used in the United States and abroad to establish standards for pollution in air, water, and soil.
However, the program has been the subject of heavy criticism, as experts disagreed about the method of review employed by the EPA. Critics assert that under this program EPA conducts deficient assessments using flawed scientific information. In addition, many opponents allege that the program has taken a significant amount of time to conduct each assessment. Industry experts and congressional representatives have advocated for the program to be restructured or eradicated due to concerns about the scientific legitimacy of the assessments. In 2011, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report condemning the methods and data relied upon by the IRIS. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office issued similar critiques of the program. The President previously stated that he plans to defund the IRIS program due to these deficiencies.
The bill introduced in Congress attempts to introduce reforms to address these criticisms. Specifically, to combat claims that the program employs weak oversight, is inefficient, and utilizes flawed scientific claims, the legislation includes provisions that ensure that chemical evaluations are conducted only when necessary and incorporate reliable scientific methods and data.
Critics of the proposed legislation argue that spreading the task of chemical assessment among various EPA agencies may result in biased outcomes influenced by political appointees. They maintain that chemical risk evaluation should be confined to an area of the EPA that is not involved in regulation.
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