EPA Commits to Strengthening Science Used in Chemical Risk Evaluations
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is continuing to act on the Biden-Harris Administration's commitment to making evidence-based decisions and developing policies and programs that are guided by the best available scientific data. Today, EPA is announcing that the agency will refine its approach to selecting and reviewing the scientific studies that are used to inform Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) chemical risk evaluations (known as systematic review).
EPA’s ongoing effort to update its systematic review approach that was issued in 2018 is also part of EPA’s broader efforts to review the first 10 TSCA risk evaluations. This review will be done in accordance with the Executive Orders and other directives provided by the Biden-Harris Administration to ensure that all agency actions meet statutory obligations, be guided by the best available science, ensure the integrity of Federal decision-making, and protect human health and the environment.
“High quality, best available scientific data and studies are the foundation of our chemical risk evaluations,” said Michal Freedhoff, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Strengthening the process used to select this information will improve chemical safety and ensure our risk evaluations protect human health and the environment.”
EPA contracted with the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in December 2019 to conduct a peer review of EPA's 2018 Application of Systematic Review in TSCA Risk Evaluations. The agency has received the report from the Academies and is committed to addressing their recommendations and ensuring strong science is the basis for all chemical risk evaluations.
EPA is not using, and will not again use, the systematic review approach that was reviewed by the Academies. The Application of Systematic Review document released in 2018 represented EPA’s practices at that time. As acknowledged in the 2018 document, the agency’s intent was to update the document based on the experience gained from the first 10 risk evaluations and stakeholder input. To that end, EPA has already begun to develop a TSCA systematic review protocol in collaboration with the agency’s Office of Research and Development to incorporate approaches from the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program, which the Academies’ report strongly recommends.
EPA is committed to following an open and transparent process to review and update the agency’s systematic review approach. EPA expects to publish and take public comment on a TSCA systematic review protocol that will adopt many of the recommendations in the Academies’ report later this year.
View the report from the Academies: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25952/the-use-of-systematic-review-in-epas-toxic-substances-control-act-risk-evaluations
View the press release from the NAS: https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2021/02/national-academies-recommend-changes-to-epas-tsca-systematic-review-process.
TSCA requires EPA to adhere to specific scientific standards including the use of the best available science and the weight of scientific evidence. To achieve this, EPA uses systematic review in the TSCA risk evaluations to identify, select, assess, and synthesize the relevant science to inform the hazard and exposure assessments.
EPA contracted with the Academies in December 2019 to conduct a peer review of its 2018 Application of Systematic Review in TSCA Risk Evaluations. The committee specifically reviewed and critiqued this systematic review document and enhancements EPA made when implementing this approach for the first 10 chemicals to undergo risk evaluation under TSCA. In addition, the committee reviewed many of the tools EPA is using to identify and extract relevant information from the scientific literature. EPA specifically asked the committee to address whether the approach to systematic review used for TSCA risk evaluations is “comprehensive, workable, objective, and transparent.”