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    « Prominent Hospital Group From South Africa & UK Pleads Guilty To International Kidney Trafficking | Main | Medvedev's Visit To Kuril Islands, Japan's Bruised Feelings & Fierce Diplomacy In Asia-Pacific »

    The US EPA Is 55 Years Behind Schedule In Compiling Data On Toxic Substances

    The DC based NGO, Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) released a new report today which shows that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will require another 55 years, if it kept the current pace of it's work, to fully finish compiling data on the 255 toxic substances, that it has set for itself as a target. 

    The CPR says: "The Environmental Protection Agency is years behind in completing risk assessments of at least 255 toxic chemicals, stalling regulatory and enforcement actions on the use of those chemicals, says a new report today from the Center for Progressive Reform. The report assesses the status of reforms the Obama Administration announced in May 2009 to the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), the EPA's primary toxic chemical database, and finds limited progress."

    The report further adds: "CPR found that due to procedural changes and attacks from regulated industry and other federal agencies, the information in IRIS hasn’t kept pace with the needs of EPA’s program offices that regulate toxic substances in the air, water and land. "We found 255 chemicals that Congress or EPA have listed as regulatory targets that are waiting for IRIS profiles." 

    Among the 255 are: 

    • Thirty-two hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) regulated under the Clean Air Act are not listed in IRIS at all, and 77 are listed but lack inhalation values, hampering the EPA's ability to conduct residual risk assessments to provide an ample margin of safety. 
    • Three of 71 contaminants regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act are not listed, and neither are 64 of the 156 substances nominated to the Contaminate Candidate List, slowing EPA's ability to develop enforceable standards for drinking water contamination.
    • Eighty-seven of the 275 substances frequently found in Superfund sites and identified by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry as "high profile" have not been assessed. 

    EPA completed nine IRIS assessments in 2009 and is on track to complete nine in 2010, an improvement from the two-per-year pace during the Bush Administration. But at the new rate, it would still take approximately 55 years to complete all of the assessments that EPA program offices need to complete statutory responsibilities."

    The CPR report's co-author, Rena Steinzor, President of CPR and Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law says, "The Obama Administration's reforms were certainly an improvement from the Bush Administration, but the process remains politicized and far too slow. What's missing here is a sense of urgency. At their current pace, it'll be half a century before they complete congressionally mandated assessments on dozens of chemicals already in use."

    CPR researchers who conducted the study recommend procedural reforms to streamline the process, to reduce the amount of time it takes to create each database and reduce the backlog. The CPR also suggests: "We recommend that EPA get rid of unnecessary steps that contribute the most to delay of IRIS assessments – in particular interagency review coordinated by the OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. This step provides other federal agencies, which are often potentially subject to eventual regulation, a privileged opportunity to influence and delay EPA’s process for completing public health profiles. EPA can and must work to depoliticize and speed the assessment process."

    U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, chair of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Technology, and a congressional leader in IRIS oversight, was given an advance copy of the CPR report. He released following statement in response to the CPR report: "There is no room for politics in assessing the public health risk from exposure to a toxic chemical. IRIS was badly broken in the Bush Administration, and I’m disappointed that IRIS is still too slow and cumbersome. We can’t wait for clusters of rare cancers or birth defects to tell us the consequences of a chemical exposure.” 

    ~ Gauri

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