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EPA Announces Improvements to IRIS Process

Release Date: 04/10/2008
Contact Information: Melissa Anley-Mills, (202) 564-5179 / anley-mills.melissa@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C. – April 10, 2008) A database used the world over to quickly see the research on chemicals found in the environment and their potential to cause health effects in people will undergo several changes to increase its transparency and efficiency. Announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Research and Development, the revisions to the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) process for developing chemical assessments will include an expanded process for recommending a substance be assessed; the earlier involvement of other agencies and the public; hosting “listening sessions” to allow for the broader participation and engagement of interested parties; and an even more rigorous scientific peer review of IRIS assessments.

“I am confident that these improvements will help our high quality risk assessment process become even more accessible to the scientific community” said Dr. George Gray, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Research and Development. “We recognize that people outside of EPA use this system and have significant knowledge and expertise to offer. Today’s improvements to the IRIS process will ensure that we continue to have assessments of the highest quality and a process that’s easy to understand and participate in.”

These revisions build upon recent steps that have already been taken to improve the IRIS Web site navigation and organization. Those enhancements provide easier to understand background information, including the history of IRIS and the IRIS review process, and create a quick one-step access to the major parts of the database (the quickviews, the summaries, the toxicological reviews, and the tracking database). EPA has also, for the first time, initiated a “data call in” for information to support its literature review of a chemical, and is seeking public comment on this review.

Together, these upgrades to the IRIS process will help create a more predictable, streamlined, and transparent process for conducting IRIS assessments. A major goal is to define the important role that public and interagency comments and interactions play in the process, and to foster greater communication and sharing of relevant scientific information between experts, interested parties, and EPA. Reforming the IRIS process has been an important goal of EPA Administrator, Stephen Johnson, as reflected in his Action Plan.

IRIS provides human health risk information describing the potential adverse health effects that may result from exposure to over 540 environmental contaminants. IRIS includes descriptions of hazard identification and dose-response information, quantitative risk estimates for chronic non-cancer and cancer effects, and access to searchable scientific documentation.

To access the IRIS Web site: http://www.epa.gov/iris
To see the IRIS revisions: http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=190045

EPA relies on quality science as the basis for sound policy and decision-making. EPA’s laboratories and research centers are building the scientific foundation needed to support the Agency’s mission to safeguard human health and the environment.

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