WASHINGTON (June 12, 2008) – A new White House policy deals a crippling blow to the ability of the scientific staff of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify chemicals that pose the greatest risk to public health, potentially putting millions of people at risk, according to public health experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
At issue is the interference with EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program. The new White House policy will delay scientific assessments of chemicals’ health risks and hinder opportunities for public comment and scientific debate. IRIS evaluates the risks of hundreds of toxic chemicals and their potential impacts on human health. While not a regulatory program, IRIS assessments are relied upon by EPA program offices and states (as well as territorial, tribal and international governments) for setting standards for drinking water, air pollution and toxic waste cleanups.
Dr. Linda Greer, Ph.D., director of NRDC’s public health program, will testify today before the House Science Committee’s Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee on the Bush administration’s recent actions to politicize and inject secrecy into EPA’s process for identifying the health risks posed by toxic chemicals.
The following is a statement from Dr. Greer, concerning EPA’s IRIS program and the potential impacts if the Administration’s actions are not reversed by Congress:
“These changes are yet another escalation of the administration’s war on science and public health that has gone on for nearly eight years. The recent changes to the IRIS process are part of a much broader agenda to sacrifice public health protections and limit public understanding of the risk of toxic chemicals to benefit polluting industries and federal agencies. By attempting to weaken the IRIS process, the administration has zeroed in on one of the earliest and most fundamental steps in protecting public health, in which EPA’s scientists identify the health risks posed by exposure to certain chemicals.”
NOTE TO REPORTERS: Dr. Greer is available to speak with reporters following her testimony. Mayra Quirindongo, a Spanish-speaking policy expert, is available to speak with Latino press.