EPA Halts Risk Assessments for Nine Chemicals
In March 2019, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report indicating that the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently had halted health risk assessments for nine chemicals. This report, requested by U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), focuses on the extent of the EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program's progress in producing chemical assessments. It also focuses on the EPA's level of progress toward TSCA implementation.
Decreased Number of Risk Assessments
A noticeable decrease in the number of chemical substances being assessed under the EPA’s IRIS Program occurred in 2018. In May, 22 chemicals were undergoing assessment. By December 2018, that number had decreased to 13. This prompted many to question the possible reasons for the reduction.
During the latter half of 2018, the EPA began requesting internal feedback from its offices regarding which chemicals they would like the IRIS Program to continue evaluating. Assessment requests were provided by two offices, the Office of Water and the Office of Land and Emergency Management, for 11 chemicals:
- arsenic (inorganic)
- chromium (VI)
- mercury salts
- polychlorinated biphenyls
- perfluorononanoic acid
- perfluorobutanoic acid
- perfluorohexanoic acid
- perfluorohexane sulfonate
- perfluorodecanoic acid
- vanadium and its compounds
The EPA added two more chemicals to this list, to bring the total number to 13:
- ethyl tertiary butyl ether
- tert-butyl alcohol
A reason for halting the assessments for the remaining nine chemicals has not yet been provided by the EPA. It is particularly unclear why they were stopped given that four of them (acrylonitrile, n-butyl alcohol, formaldehyde, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)) were in the final development stages.
Senator Carper, along with fellow Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), have requested that the EPA finalize the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) health assessment of formaldehyde considering the particularly high risks associated with exposure.