Your Voice Matters to EPA’s IRIS Program

By Kacee Deener

Last month, I attended an internal EPA meeting to discuss plans for developing an Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment for inorganic arsenic. The purpose of the meeting was to talk with EPA’s regulatory programs about the scope of the assessment.

An IRIS assessment is only part of the information EPA uses to make decisions—it provides information about the chemical’s hazard and the relationship between the dose of the chemical and the magnitude of the biological response or health effect. I know from my days as a public health student that IRIS is really important to environmental and public health practitioners in EPA and across the country—they use the database every day to help inform decisions to protect public health. So it’s important that we understand what questions people may have to answer about a chemical before beginning an assessment. This helps us appreciate the big picture of the work we’re doing; it also helps us focus the assessment so it’s most useful to the people who use IRIS. For example:

  • Are there upcoming rules where inorganic arsenic will be a risk driver?
  • Are EPA regions facing decisions about cleaning up sites contaminated with inorganic arsenic?
  • What types of toxicity values does the Agency and other stakeholders need to do its work?

These are just some of the questions that were asked during this internal meeting.

This type of meeting will become more common in the IRIS Program. However, we won’t just meet internally about these questions. We want to expand the conversation about IRIS with all stakeholders, including state and local health agencies, industry, environmental and public health organizations, the general public, and any individual or group that has an impact on, an interest in, or could be affected by an IRIS assessment.

We understand that IRIS assessments inform the decisions that EPA makes every day to protect public health and the environment. We know these decisions can have a big impact on human health, the environment, and the economy. Because of this, stakeholder engagement is critical to promote transparency and understand the views and input of those impacted by IRIS.

On November 13, we will hold a public stakeholder meeting about IRIS, and we are inviting anyone who’s interested to participate. But this is only the beginning—we plan to have an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders about the IRIS Program and specific IRIS assessments. We are interested in hearing what you think, so come join us on November 13. We would love to hear from you!

About the author: Kacee Deener is the Communications Director in EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment, home of the IRIS Program. She joined EPA 12 years ago and has a Masters degree in Public Health.

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