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EPA Announces New IRIS Assessment Development Process

Release Date: 05/21/2009
Contact Information: Latisha Petteway, 202-564-3191 / 4355 /

(Washington, D.C. – May 21, 2009) U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson today announced reforms to the agency’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) that will revitalize the program and ensure its scientific quality, integrity, transparency and timeliness.

The IRIS database provides crucial information on ways human health is impacted by exposure to chemical substances in air, water, and land both from contaminated sites and from products. Combined with specific exposure information, government and private entities use IRIS to help characterize public health risks of chemical substances in a site-specific situation and thereby support risk management decisions designed to protect public health.

“We’re improving efficiency, scientific integrity, and transparency in a program that plays a vital role in our mission to protect human health and the environment,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “A more effective IRIS program gives EPA and the American people better information – and better information leads to safer, healthier communities.”

Other highlights of the new IRIS development process include a streamlined review schedule, ensuring that the majority of assessments are posted on IRIS within two years of the start date. This will result in more human health assessments being available to EPA’s programs and regions and to other users of the IRIS database. The new process will no longer provide other federal agencies the opportunity to request suspension of an assessment process to conduct research on “mission critical” chemicals.

While opportunities remain for input from other federal agencies and White House offices, the input will be from health scientists and will focus on scientific and technical comments. Further, all written comments from other federal agencies and White House offices will be made public, which will greatly improve the transparency of the process.

EPA plays a critical role in disseminating timely, high quality, and accessible human health risk information on environmental contaminants that may endanger the health of the American public. IRIS is also a critical resource for risk assessors and environmental and health professionals in state and local governments and other countries.

For far too long the success of EPA’s IRIS program has been hampered by an assessment development process that took too long, was redundant, and was not transparent to the public. The new IRIS process will be entirely managed by EPA. EPA will have final authority over the contents of all IRIS assessments after considering the scientific input of experts at other agencies and White House offices. The well established processes of rigorous independent external peer review and public review and comment will remain key components of the new IRIS process.

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