The USEPA's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) will receive nutrient-rich fertilizer that will keep it from becoming obsolete.Â IRIS provides an overall characterization of the public health risks for a given chemical in a given situation.Â It is the place to go to find noncancer effects (reference doses (RfD), reference concentrations (RfC)) and cancer effects (cancer slope factors and unit risks) that may result from exposure to various substances in the environment. These kinds of numbers go into the calculations for remediation goals at Superfund sites.Â
IRIS values drive regulatory and policy decisions.Â For example, IRIS is the primary source of toxicity values used to develop remediation goals and screening levels at both the State and Federal level.
As of May 21, 2009, there is a new IRIS process in place.Â A seven-step assessment development process should be more responsive to the needs of the USEPA and other government public health partners.Â It is expected to shorten the assessment turnaround time to 23 months âand, frankly, even if it takes them 46 months per assessment, that would be a huge improvement on the unhurried, glacial pace weâve grown accustomed to in the last decade.Â Â The new process promises scientific quality, public comment, independent external peer review, and transparent and documented judgments.
Grow, baby, grow.
Kas is an industrial hygienist studying public health in the DC metro area.
In general, I agree that the new IRIS process is an improvement over past practices, and that there are clear opportunities for public involvement at several key points in this process, but I still have signficant concerns.
In the new process, there is to be an interagency consultation before the draft Toxicological Review goes out to external scientific peer review and public review. On the surface, this may seem reasonable, but we have to remember that some of these entities (e.g., within DoD and DoE) are also responsible for some of the worst Superfund sites in the country.
As responsible parties, they will have an opportunity to intervene in a process in which they have a vested interest before the external peer review takes place. While any written comments from these sister agencies are to be made public, comments could be made in closed meetings or phone conversations that are not subject to such disclosure requirements. In fact, some of the most controversial toxicological reviews - trichloroethene and perchlorate - were challenged by the DoD in these interagency consultations.
I believe there is a case to be made that the interagency consultation should be concurrent with the external peer review and public review and comment. It is important that the external peer review be allowed to judge the scientific merits of these assessments BEFORE vested interests weight in.
Hopefully practices will continue to improve.