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EPA urged to rethink chemical risk evaluation process
Chemistry World ^ | 7 September 2012 | Rebecca Trager

Posted on 09/08/2012 5:05:16 PM PDT by neverdem

The EPA's process for assessing chemical risk has come under fire for being inadequate

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) process for assessing the risk of human exposure to various chemicals is deeply flawed and actually threatens public health, according to two experts with inside experience. In fact, they are urging the agency to ‘fundamentally alter’ its approach to chemical risk evaluation.

In a Nature commentary, George Gray, who directs George Washington University’s Center for Risk Science and Public Health, and Joshua Cohen, deputy director of Tufts Medical Center’s Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health, note that many chemicals have never been examined by the EPA because the agency’s risk assessments can take years or even decades.

The EPA is charged with developing regulations to protect human health and the environment, but Gray and Cohen – who have served on multiple US National Academies committees that have reviewed EPA chemical risk assessments – argue that the agency has compromised that role by undermining its own scientific credibility and subsequently delaying publication of risk estimates for chemicals.

‘Importantly, the EPA’s “science-policy”, which prescribes erring on the side of overstating risks when addressing common scientific gaps, can mislead decision makers and result in sub-optimal protection of public health,’ Cohen tells Chemistry World. In fact, peer reviewers have questioned the EPA’s selective use of data and some assumptions that it has made to plug gaps in the scientific evidence. For example, the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommended in an April 2011 report that the EPA better justify and quantify its risk assessment assumptions. That NAS report specifically questioned the evidence that the EPA used to support its conclusion linking formaldehyde exposure and certain health conditions like leukaemia. A few months later the EPA announced plans to improve its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), which is its public database that provides human health assessments on over 540 chemicals.

Foremost, Gray and Cohen want the EPA to offer faster summaries for more chemicals, arguing that rough-and-ready estimates are better than nothing and are often sufficient for policy-making. In addition, they suggest that IRIS include information from private groups and other governments and recommend that the EPA acknowledge uncertainty in its risk estimates by reporting a range of plausible values to reflect health or environmental risk, rather than a single number. They envision a scenario where that range might be quite large for chemicals that have limited data or more disagreement on safety.

‘We are not calling for an overhaul of IRIS, but an expansion in many ways,’ says Gray, who has served assistant administrator at the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and as the agency’s science adviser. ‘We are recommending that IRIS make itself bigger,’ he adds.

The American Chemistry Council generally agrees with Gray and Cohen’s assessment of the numerous scientific shortcomings plaguing IRIS. Specifically, the ACC agrees that the scientific basis for IRIS assessments must be improved, that the EPA relies far too heavily on conservative and outdated assumptions and that assessments need to be prioritised better. 'At best, these shortcomings have limited the programme’s effectiveness and usefulness,' the ACC states. 'At worst, the "inflated risks" that Gray and Cohen speak to have created misperceptions and confusion about true risks, which can lead to unwarranted and costly decisions about how to manage those risks.'


G M Gray and J T Cohen, Nature, 2012, 489, 27 (DOI: 10.1038/489027a)

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: chemicalsafety; epa; health; science

1 posted on 09/08/2012 5:05:22 PM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem

“rough-and-ready estimates are better than nothing and are often sufficient for policy-making.”

Uh-oh! Once a regulation gets put in, it stays. California declared isopropyl alcohol (you know, rubbing alcohol at the grocery store) to be a carcinogen, so every grocery, CVS, and Walgreens has a sign outside declaring that “this facility contains a chemical recognized to be a carcinogen”.

EPA will go so political with their “rough and ready estimates” that they’ll expand their power even more.

2 posted on 09/08/2012 5:17:52 PM PDT by DBrow
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To: DBrow

Aw sheesh!!!!!! I don’t wanna talk about the epa right now! I just finished up their monthly reports which are due tomorrow. I’ve been dealing with them since their inception, and have a decent rapport with the couple people I have to deal with. But they’re jerks! They come out for their yearly inspection,,,, no problems,,,, friendly as all get out. But,,,, they just have to show their value to the bureaucracy! They then write a report, complaining about stoopid, piddlin’ stuff,,,,like “There should be 6” more dirt piled around Wellhead #4. Argggggh!

3 posted on 09/08/2012 5:33:57 PM PDT by Dr. Bogus Pachysandra ( Ya can't pick up a turd by the clean end!)
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To: DBrow

Let us hope EPA never gets around to regulating the allowable level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Oh. They already have?

Plant life everywhere bemoans the restrictions put on their potential for growth.

Yeah, right. Plants got feelings, and they vote? Who knew?

4 posted on 09/08/2012 5:38:36 PM PDT by alloysteel (Are you better off than you were four years ago? Well, are you?)
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To: DBrow
Many substances are harmless at low dosages but lethal at a certain level. Aspirin is a good example. Low dosages taken every day are helpful to many people but higher dosages taken every day can be harmful and if you take enough at once it will kill you. The problem with the EPA’s models are that they will extrapolate down from a lethal dose and claim that a tiny dose is harmful in many cases even when there is ample data to show that their assumptions are not valid. The EPA is run by politically motivated bureaucrats not scientists. Even their bonafied “environmental scientists” are often politically motivated ideologues whose judgment is clouded by a hidden radical agenda.
5 posted on 09/08/2012 5:44:26 PM PDT by fireman15 (Check your facts before making ignorant statements.)
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To: neverdem

Informative - thank you!


6 posted on 09/08/2012 5:48:56 PM PDT by mbj
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To: neverdem

For reading later

7 posted on 09/08/2012 5:52:57 PM PDT by VanShuyten ("a shadow...draped nobly in the folds of a gorgeous eloquence.")
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To: neverdem

the last thing these bastards need is more power.

8 posted on 09/08/2012 6:11:20 PM PDT by bravo whiskey (if the little things really annoy you, maybe it's because the big things are going well.)
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To: fireman15

A linear, no threshold model is what they use.

So 1200 people jumping off a one-foot drop causes as many fatalities as 12 people jumping off a 100 foot drop.

9 posted on 09/08/2012 6:27:12 PM PDT by DBrow
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To: DBrow

You are exactly right!

10 posted on 09/08/2012 7:34:52 PM PDT by fireman15 (Check your facts before making ignorant statements.)
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To: DBrow

Excellent example. I can see some EPA creep’s head exploding if you told him that.

11 posted on 09/08/2012 8:06:12 PM PDT by RetiredTexasVet (Skittle pooping unicorns are more common than progressives with honor & integrity.)
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To: neverdem
There are scads of naturally occurring substances that would NEVER pass EPA assessment, produced by the thousands of tons all around us. Many have industrial uses, from pesticides to plastics. There are very few synthetic alternatives that pass EPA muster. Hence, banning some synthetic chemicals has a serious positive impact on their accepted alternatives, especially if they are patented.

This "heightened risk assessment" stinks of political payoffs.

12 posted on 09/08/2012 8:15:46 PM PDT by Carry_Okie (The Slave Party Switcheroo: Economic crisis! Zero's eligibility Trumped!! Hillary 2012!!!)
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To: El Gato; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Robert A. Cook, PE; lepton; LadyDoc; jb6; tiamat; PGalt; Dianna; ...
Marijuana Fights Cancer and Helps Manage Side Effects, Researchers Find

IU mathematician offers unified theory of dark matter, dark energy, altering Einstein field equations

Super-stretchy jelly can take a hit - Mix-and-match hydrogel is most resilient yet.

X-ray, mammogram radiation may increase breast cancer risk for some women

FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.

13 posted on 09/08/2012 8:27:02 PM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi min oi)
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To: DBrow

Better yet, a person jumping off a 1-foot drop 1200 times injures him as badly as jumping off a 1200-foot drop one time.

14 posted on 09/08/2012 9:38:38 PM PDT by Erasmus (Zwischen des Teufels und des tiefen, blauen Meers)
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To: alloysteel

It was two judges in DC who held that Carbon Dioxide was a “pollutant” (greenhouse gas) and could be regulated re industry.

However, if you take this stupidity to its’ logical conclusion, adding in EPA’s powermad marxist leadership’s goal of totally regulating human activity, humans breathing out CO2 could be regulated because we release “greenhouse gases”, i.e. pollutants.

Their solution would be to tell us to “drop dead immediately” or be assigned a death date much like the program in the Star Trek episode where a computer war designated “kills” and people had to voluntarily let themselves be killed (rules of the game).

Seriously, I cannot find an insect spray that actually kills a lot of flies when I spray them. I did kill one the other day by spraying him to the wall, but most of the time they just look at me and say, “Tasty, give us more” (RAID and HotShot).

I find it easier to just hit the little pests hard with the can.

15 posted on 09/08/2012 10:05:24 PM PDT by MadMax, the Grinning Reaper
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To: RetiredTexasVet

“I can see some EPA creep’s head exploding if you told him that.”

I’ve told that to EPA, DNDO, NRC and FDA with radiation and laser exposure limits, and heads did not explode. Usually I get told that the standards are what the standards are, and hormesis is ignored. Sigh.

16 posted on 09/09/2012 10:40:31 AM PDT by DBrow
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