Let the IRIS Bloom:Regrowing the integrated risk information system (IRIS) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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Abstract

The Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an important role in protecting public health. Originally it provided a single database listing official risk values equally valid for all Agency offices, and was an important tool for risk assessment communication across EPA. Started in 1986, IRIS achieved full standing in 1990 when it listed 500 risk values, the effort of two senior EPA groups over 5 years of monthly face-to-face meetings, to assess combined risk data from multiple Agency offices. Those groups were disbanded in 1995, and the lack of continuing face-to-face meetings meant that IRIS became no longer EPA's comprehensive database of risk values or their latest evaluations. As a remedy, a work group of the Agency's senior scientists should be re-established to evaluate new risks and to update older ones. Risk values to be reviewed would come from the same EPA offices now developing such information on their own. Still, this senior group would have the final authority on posting a risk value in IRIS, independently of individual EPA offices. This approach could also lay the groundwork for an all-government IRIS database, especially needed as more government Agencies, industries and non-governmental organizations are addressing evolving risk characterizations.

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