Vitter: NAS Releases Serious Reality Check for EPA on Chemical Assessment
NAS review supports Vitter and others’ criticism of EPA’s methods of assessing chemicals providing further guidance on where EPA needs to go to ensure scientific integrity
November 7, 2013

U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee made the following statement after the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report today outlining the correct approach the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be utilizing in chemical assessments. Vitter says the NAS interim report, "Critical Aspects of EPA's IRIS Assessment of Inorganic Arsenic" is a prime example of why EPA's risk assessment methods are flawed and the Agency's chemical programs, particularly the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, need to be reformed and updated.

"I've long had concerns about the quality of scientific work being conducted at the EPA, but it's almost embarrassing they need their hand held in one of their key roles - assessing chemical risks," Vitter said. "NAS is widely considered the gold standard in science, so I'm pleased they're around to supervise. I believe the Chemical Safety Improvement Act will help EPA to fix many of their chemical assessment problems and shift the Agency to using sound, credible science to ensure that chemicals are safe."

In 2010 EPA released a draft cancer assessment of inorganic arsenic. However, in 2011 Congress mandated an independent NAS review, and EPA subsequently scrapped their draft assessment. This was undoubtedly due to the serious flaws within the draft including EPA's continued use of failed methodologies and cherry-picking of the data. The EPA announced plans to redo the toxicological assessment after committing to adopt reforms outlined by the NAS the last time they took the agency to task on chemical work. The NAS report today gives the EPA further guidance to properly conduct an assessment.

In 2009, the EPA completed a controversial chemical assessment of formaldehyde. Due to serious scientific concerns, Vitter had blocked the nomination of EPA's chief scientist until the EPA agreed to have the NAS conduct an independent review of the EPA's scientific work. The NAS review on formaldehyde raised enough issues that Congress appropriated funding for additional reviews by NAS. Parts of the NAS review on formaldehyde were supposed to become a cornerstone in how the EPA will conduct assessments moving forward although EPA has yet to fully implement the NAS recommendations.

The EPA's recent assessment of methanol fell short of their commitment to incorporate the NAS recommendations. Two months ago, Vitter called on the EPA to incorporate these important reform principals. Click here to read Vitter's October 9, 2013, letter to the EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution prevention.

 

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