Science Board Applauds EPA’s IRIS Program Ahead of Committee Hearing
(Washington, DC) – Last Friday, the members of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Science Advisory Board (SAB) sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt praising the progress made by EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program over the past several years. “The changes are so extensive and positive that they constitute a virtual reinvention of IRIS,” wrote the Chair of the SAB, Dr. Peter Thorne. The IRIS program provides critical risk assessments of chemicals, such as formaldehyde, identifying, and characterizing potential human health hazards from exposures. These assessments provide critical information, not only to EPA, but also to state and local decision makers, public health professionals, and international partners.
The IRIS program has been criticized in the past. In 2014, the National Academy of Sciences released a report providing recommendations to improve the IRIS program. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has also consistently included the IRIS program in their “High Risk Report,” encouraging the agency to take steps to ensure the program functions effectively. The letter to Administrator Pruitt from the EPA Science Advisory Board commended the program for making “significant improvements over a short period of time. We are optimistic that the restructured IRIS program will strengthen the scientific foundations of risk assessment and protect the health and safety of the American public,” the letter said.
Today, the Science Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Examining the Scientific and Operational Integrity of EPA’s IRIS Program.” The Majority have invited two industry scientists as witnesses. While the Science Committee has conducted oversight of IRIS in the past, today’s hearing does not afford Members the opportunity to ask meaningful questions about the progress the IRIS program has made in the past two years because the Majority did not invite any witnesses from the EPA, the EPA’s SAB, GAO, or the National Academies to testify.
Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, “I was very pleased to hear that scientists currently making up EPA's Science Advisory Board are impressed with the work being done by IRIS. It is clear from the letter that IRIS is a critically important program for protecting the health and safety of all Americans, and we need to ensure it can continue its work unimpeded.”