Testing… Testing 1, 2, 3

By Janice Lee        

Arsenic element from periodic tableSo here we are preparing for the upcoming Public Stakeholder Workshop on the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program’s new health assessment of Inorganic Arsenic (January 8-9, 2013).  The goal of the public workshop is to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to share their views about the assessment.  

An IRIS assessment is important to organizations that make decisions about protecting public health because it provides information about a chemical’s hazard and the relationship between the dose of the chemical and the magnitude of its biological response or health effect.  

We’re interested in hearing from the public about what types of studies exist about inorganic arsenic and what is currently known about the chemical. We’re also interested in hearing why various organizations need a health assessment of inorganic arsenic.  For example, what sort of questions do they have to answer or what decisions do they have to make about the chemical?

The knowledge we gather from this important part of the process will help us better understand what should be included in the final assessment in order to meet the needs of the American public. 

You can participate in the workshop in person or remotely by webinar. The webinar option is great since many people who are interested in attending can’t come in person. Today we did a dry run to try out the webinar system and everything worked just fine. Now that we’re all set, I’m eager to see how many people join us using this technology.

As a graduate student, my doctoral work was on arsenic chemistry and health effects. One of the projects I worked on evaluated arsenic removal at a water treatment facility in Holly, MI. When I graduated, I thought I was done with arsenic. I just had to finish my manuscript and thought I would probably never work on arsenic again. Well, that was 10 years ago and here I am, the co-chemical manager for the inorganic arsenic assessment! 

I’m excited to be working on arsenic again, and in a different capacity this time around. Instead of doing research, I’m applying the research that has already been done to inform the development of an assessment that will be used as part of the science to inform future public health decisions about inorganic arsenic.

For more information on the workshop, check out the website: http://www.epa.gov/iris/publicmeeting/arsenic.htm

Please join us. We’re looking forward to hearing from you next week!

About the author:  Janice Lee is a health scientist in EPA’s IRIS Program. She has been with EPA for the past seven years and has a Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

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.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Science Wednesday: EPA Risk Assessments, the Best Possible Science

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Paul T. Anastas, Ph.D.

A dedicated team of scientists in EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program works to assess the hazards that chemicals pose to human health. The assessments they produce, known as IRIS assessments, are not regulations. However, the information they contain is an important basis for regulatory decisions that impact the health of all Americans.

The importance of this hazard information—such as whether or not a chemical is likely carcinogenic—cannot be overstated.
Because some assessments focus on chemicals that are widely used in industry, members of the regulated community, environmental groups, the media, and the public have shown keen interest in the IRIS program. Their interest is legitimate. All Americans should be armed with the best possible scientific information on chemical hazards and feel confident that EPA is striving for continuous improvement.

EPA also solicits feedback on draft IRIS assessments from independent scientific experts. While their feedback has been largely positive, when issues are identified, we act to address them. This is precisely the reason EPA submits draft assessments for independent review. This means the scientific process is working.

This summer, EPA announced a set of improvements to the IRIS program in direct response to recommendations from the National Academies of Science and other independent experts. These changes make IRIS assessments clearer, more concise, and make our methods and scientific assumptions more transparent to readers. We have already begun to phase-in these changes to assessments in the IRIS pipeline.

Of the 50 chemicals currently in the IRIS pipeline, several are exceedingly complex. For example, the IRIS assessment of trichloroethylene (TCE), a widely used industrial solvent, has been under development for more than a decade. The assessment is of high interest because of its potential implications for industry and public health. After extensive independent review, it has been determined that any issues have been adequately addressed.

The TCE IRIS assessment is being released today. It concludes that TCE is carcinogenic to people and poses a human health hazard to the central nervous system, kidney, liver, immune system, male reproductive system, and the developing fetus. This information will be useful to communities, businesses, and government leaders across the country as they make important decisions that impact human health and the environment.

While we know that the goal of perfection is impossible, we will continue to strive for it. We will continue to release IRIS assessments that are scientifically strong. We will continue to pursue the best science with integrity and a mission to protect the health of the American people.

About the author: Paul T. Anastas, Ph.D. is the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development and the science advisor to the Agency.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Science Wednesday: Watching the Government Process

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Claire Payne

I find our government fascinating because at first glance, it seems a giant organization that makes the rules for all of us. However, upon closer inspection, one can see the intricate web of Federal agencies mixing with our elected politicians, advocacy groups, scientists and other professionals, press, and an untold number of general and wonkish enthusiasts engaging on every issue.

As a summer intern for EPA, I’ve experienced the pleasure and challenge of navigating these multiple layers. I’ve learned that with every step along the way new questions and obstacles arise that must be analyzed and answered before eventually arriving at a satisfactory conclusion.

I recently attended a congressional hearing where EPA Assistant Administrator Dr. Paul Anastas was called to testify regarding EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). Mingling with the EPA senior staff as well as with the dozens of people who were visiting Congress that day as either tourists or professionals was indescribably uplifting. This was our country at its best and here I am, a 21-year-old from the west coast, experiencing the finest of democracy’s ideals, first-hand.

I took my seat towards the back of the hearing room and waited with anticipation. Before me I could see the committee chair and members seated across three rows of seats that spanned the room. At once I noticed on the wall behind them an engraving with the quote,

“For I dipped into the future, far as human eye could see, Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be” –Tennyson.

This quote resonated deeply with me throughout the hearing because it seemed extremely appropriate and fitting as IRIS program was discussed in such detail. Through IRIS, Agency researchers conduct chemical hazard assessments that provide scientific data to support EPA’s program offices as they make decisions on how to protect public health and the environment, now and for future generations.

It was a special privilege to observe these high caliber professionals engaging in this manner. I think that there’s no better way to learn about our future than to be thrust into the heat of such an important government process and experiencing it firsthand. I recommend to all you readers – if you haven’t yet attended a hearing, it is a must see event!

About the author: Claire Payne is a summer intern with EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.