WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program has made "substantial progress" in implementing recommendations outlined in past reports by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, improving the program's overall scientific and technical performance, says a new Academies report. The program, which is used to assess the hazards posed by environmental contaminants, remains a work in progress and should continue to evolve as it adapts and applies new scientific practices and knowledge, the report says.
The transformation of the IRIS process began several years ago after the release of a 2011 Academies report that provided suggestions for creating a more systematic and transparent IRIS process. In a 2014 report, the Academies reviewed the changes implemented in the program since 2011 and concluded that the improvements were considerable. Under the program's new leadership, EPA asked the National Academies to review again the agency's progress toward addressing past recommendations.
The Academies' latest review finds that IRIS has made substantial progress in incorporating systematic-review methods into its process and assessments. IRIS has also established a systematic-review working group and engaged subject-matter experts. According to the new report, these groups should increase efficiency and consistency among assessments and improve the scientific rigor of the assessments.
"The changes in the IRIS program over such a short period of time are impressive," said Jonathan Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "We see a substantial commitment at EPA to use systematic-review methods in conducting assessments, which are important for identifying, evaluating, and summarizing the findings from current literature and integrating the evidence available to inform decisions."
The committee also said the program has developed a number of collaborations with such groups as the World Health Organization, the National Toxicology Program Office of Health Assessment and Translation, and the European Food Safety Authority that will help position the IRIS program as a leader in advancing systematic-review methods.
The report offers recommendations for some refinements and further development in different stages of its systematic-review process and risk quantification process and urges EPA to give high priority to completion, peer review, and release of its IRIS handbook, which is expected to provide critical guidance for the development of IRIS assessments. The committee noted, however, that EPA is describing its approach in IRIS protocols, and this practice provides transparency while the handbook is being completed.
The study was sponsored by EPA. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. The National Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit http://national-academies.
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Copies of Progress Toward Transforming the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program: A 2018 Evaluation are available at http://www.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF SCIENCES, ENGINEERING, AND MEDICINE
Division on Earth and Life Studies Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology
Committee to Review Advances Made to the IRIS Process
Jonathan M. Samet* (chair)
Colorado School of Public Health
Colorado State University
Richard A. Corley
Laboratory Fellow (retired)
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Victor Mills Society Research Fellow
Procter & Gamble Co.
David C. Dorman
Professor of Toxicology
Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences
North Carolina State University
Russ B. Hauser
Department of Environmental Health, and
Frederick Lee Hisaw Professor of Reproductive Physiology
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Karen A. Robinson
Associate Professor of Medicine, and
Director, JHU Evidence-Based Practice Center
School of Medicine
Johns Hopkins University
Richard P. Scheines
Professor of Philosophy and Dean
Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Carnegie Mellon University
Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment
California Environmental Protection Agency
Division of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Preventive Medicine
School of Medicine
University of New Mexico
Ellen K. Mantus
* Member, National Academy of Medicine