The Environmental Protection Agency’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) is considered by many to be the gold standard database for toxicological information and human health effects data, used by risk assessors around the world. Information on chemicals in the database carries the imprimatur of EPA, and is thus considered authoritative. Accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, IRIS profiles of individual chemicals are a cornerstone for a host of activity in the public and private sector, including regulation decisions by government, safety approaches by industry, and evidence offered in litigation.
Since then, EPA has struggled to improve the program, largely because high-level managers have focused on maximizing “stakeholder engagement,” as opposed to instituting reforms that might speed up the development of new chemical risk assessments. The chemical industry has far more resources than the public interest community and a more direct interest in the outcome of any individual risk assessment document. Thus additional “stakeholder engagement” (typically in the form of multi-day meetings where scientific details are discussed in terms only understood by well-compensated scientists) mostly benefits the potentially regulated industry.
CPR President Rena Steinzor’s 2014 testimony at a joint hearing of the House Science Committee’s Subcommittees on Oversight and the Environment lays bare the problems faced by the IRIS program.
Letter to EPA re ACC's Misinterpretation of Law. On December 22, 2011, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor and Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson responding to a letter the American Chemistry Council (ACC) had sent to EPA. The ACC’s letter had included an erroneous interpretation of IRIS-related riders to an omnibus spending bill, and ACC claimed they necessitated EPA sending an ongoing IRIS assessment of dioxin back to the drawing board.
Letter to OMB re EPA's IRIS toxics database. On July 8th, 2011, CPR Member Scholars Rena Steinzor and Wendy Wager wrote to OMB Director Jacob Lew, responding to a letter the American Chemical Council (ACC) had sent to OMB about IRIS. Steinzor and Wagner rebutted ACC's arguments that OMB should become further involved in the review of IRIS chemical assessments, and that the National Academy of Sciences should review IRIS assessments.
Protesting Bush 'Reforms.' Read CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor and CPR Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz's April 2008 letter to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, about proposed “Integrated Risk Information System Assessment Development Procedures” that would slow the process of filling significant gaps.
Data Gaps. Read Closing Data Gaps, CPR White Paper 602, April 2006, CPR Member Scholar John Applegate's innovative proposal for addressing the difficult problem of the significant gaps in what EPA knows about the dangers of chemicals now used in commerce. Or read the news release. Or read Rena Steinzor, Katherine Baer, and Matt Shudtz's 2005 white paper on the significant gaps in what EPA knows about the dangers of chemicals now on the market and in common use, gaps reflected in EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), arguably the world's most prominent toxicological database: Overcoming Environmental Data Gaps: Why What EPA Doesn't Know about Toxic Chemicals Can Hurt, CPR White Paper 510, July 2005.