- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
In March 2008, GAO reported that the database of chemicals assessed under the IRIS program was at serious risk of becoming obsolete because the EPA had not been able to complete timely, transparent and credible assessments or decrease its backlog of ongoing assessments. According to the office, a revised IRIS assessment process that EPA issued in April 2008 "did not respond to the recommendations; rather, it made changes likely to further exacerbate concerns that had been identified, according to GAO."
"Largely as a result of EPA's lack of responsiveness," the office noted in its latest report highlights, "GAO added EPA's processes for assessing and controlling toxic chemicals as a high-risk area in its January 2009 biennial status report on government-wide high-risk areas requiring increased attention by executive agencies and Congress."
The EPA issued a new IRIS assessment process on May 21, 2009, largely sticking to the GAO's April 2008 recommendations. The GAO report noted that the IRIS reforms promised by President Obama would "restore EPA's control of the process and increase its transparency." In particular, the report noted that giving control of interagency reviews to the EPA rather than the Office of Management and Budget – as had the previous Administration – would do much to restore the integrity of the IRIS assessment process by cutting politicians from decision-making.
The report did warn that the Obama Administration's methodology for choosing members of its16 federal advisory board committees, which allows people to speak on behalf of identified stakeholders rather than pass muster for conflict-of-interest in having them speak as individuals.