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National Research Council Releases Report Praising EPA’s IRIS Program Enhancements

Release Date: 05/06/2014
Contact Information: Cathy Milbourn (News Media Only) Milbourn.Cathy@epa.gov 202-564-7849 202-564-4355

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) actions to improve its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program, which provides information on the health effects of environmental contaminants, were applauded in a report by the National Academies’ National Research Council (NRC).

“I’m proud of the hard work our scientists have put into improving our IRIS program, and encouraged to see their efforts result in such tremendous progress which translates to greater transparency and improved efficiency to the benefit of the American public,” said Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “EPA is grateful to the Academies for their review, their recognition of the progress that’s been made, and for their recommendations that will help us make IRIS a much more effective and efficient program.”

The NRC announced that the program has moved forward steadily in planning for and implementing changes in each element of the IRIS assessment process. The report commends EPA for its substantive new approaches, continued commitment to improving the process, and successes to date. While recognizing the IRIS program is still implementing changes, the NRC notes in its report that, “overall, the committee expects that EPA will complete its planned revisions in a timely way and that the revisions will transform the IRIS program.”

EPA’s IRIS program provides health assessments of chemicals to which the public may be exposed from releases to air, water, and land and, additionally, through the use and disposal of chemicals. IRIS assessments inform EPA rulemakings, and the release of final IRIS assessments is consistent with EPA’s ongoing efforts to improve the health of Americans and protect the environment.

EPA has been strengthening IRIS for several years and in 2013 announced broad changes through a series of enhancements designed to help the Agency produce more high quality assessments in a timely and transparent manner. A key feature of the enhancements is increased stakeholder engagement throughout the assessment development process, which EPA is achieving by holding bimonthly public science meetings to discuss specific assessments.

In the past few years, EPA has made many changes to the IRIS program. Assessments are now written using a streamlined document structure that includes:

A preamble describing how EPA applies guidance, methods, and criteria to develop assessments;
An executive summary highlighting major assessment conclusions;
A detailed literature search strategy and study evaluation process used to develop the assessment; and
Distinct sections on hazard identification and dose-response analysis.

The NRC notes that the IRIS program has made substantial progress in a short time, and the recommendations in their most recent report should be seen as building further on the progress that EPA has already made. EPA plans to convene a workshop later this year to address some of the NRC's recommendations.

Information on IRIS: www.epa.gov/iris

Link to NRC report: http://www.nationalacademies.org/newsroom/index.html