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.
In 2011, CPR Member Scholars responded to industry efforts to further bog down the IRIS process, writing to the White House Office of Management and Budget to oppose a proposal by the chemical industry's trade association for OMB to take an even greater role in IRIS assessments, thus slowing down the process and bending it further away from the underlying science at work in IRIS's risk assessment. In addition, CPR President Rena Steinzor testified before a congressional committee, again opposing industry-backed efforts to impede the IRIS assessment process.
EPA’s efforts to fill IRIS’s data gaps were largely stymied during the Bush Administration, and not by accident. The Administration imposed “reforms” designed to subject EPA’s scientists – the ones who should be making final decisions on the safety of chemicals – to a host of political pressures from government agencies with neither scientific expertise nor an interest in protecting the environment. Most notably, the Department of Defense, the nation’s largest toxic polluter, had an opportunity to help water down EPA’s scientific findings.
The Obama Administration recognized the problem, but its May 2009 revisions to the IRIS process did left key issues unaddressed, according to the CPR report’s authors, Member Scholars Rena Steinzor and Wendy Wagner and Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz. Specifically, the report called on EPA to abandon the Bush-era interagency review process for IRIS listings, a process designed to compromise IRIS’s scientific integrity. In addition, the report called on EPA to establish priorities from among the many chemicals not yet listed in IRIS, and to commitg to completing IRIS profiles on them within reasonable periods of time.
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.