In DepthEvidence-Based Policy

Critics pan EPA plan for weighing toxic chemical risks

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Science  17 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6403, pp. 631-632
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6403.631

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Academic scientists and advocacy groups are urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw and rewrite proposed guidelines for determining which scientific findings to use when evaluating the safety of toxic chemicals. The critics say that, if adopted, the guidance will allow regulators to exclude high-quality health and risk studies for "ridiculous" reasons, favor industry-backed research, and prevent EPA from considering academic studies that rest on innovative methods. EPA, however, says the guidelines are likely to evolve and that it is aiming for an "efficient systematic review process that generates high-quality, fit-for-purpose risk evaluations that rely on the best available science." The controversy has its roots in a 2016 overhaul of the nation's premier chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act, which orders EPA to develop new guidelines for the "systematic review" of the quality of the scientific evidence used in risk assessments. In response, this past May EPA released a 248-page draft that is drawing cautious support from industry groups and criticism from health and environmental groups.

  • * Vanessa Zainzinger is a journalist in the United Kingdom.