US undermines scientists in assessing chemicals

US undermines scientists in assessing chemicals  The politicization of us's Environmental Protection Agency (epa) has reached its acme. On April 10, the epa announced a new procedure to assess toxicity of chemicals. epa in its new avatar gives greater say to government agencies and corporate groups, and undermines scientists and public health professionals.

The changes proposed by the epa became effective the day they were announced. However, according to a report of the Government Accounting Office (gao), the investigative arm of the us Congress charged with examining matters relating to the receipt and payment of public funds, epa scientists began facing speed bumps once the process to review procedures to assess toxic chemicals commenced in 2004.

The changes announced on April 10 amended procedures of the Integrated Risk Information System (iris), which establishes safe levels for toxic chemicals in the us ( see box: The risk database). According to epa, the changes will create several opportunities for affected interests to weigh in "at key points throughout the nomination and assessment' of new environmental contaminants. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a non-profit alliance of us- government affiliated scientists and law enforcement officers, has a better description for the amendments. "The changes will increase corporate and political influence in public health decisions, which should be purely scientific. Affected corporations will be intimately involved in each step of epa's risk assessment procedures, making the agency's work vulnerable to manipulation,' representatives of the alliance said.

Among the changes is greater say for the White House's Office of Management and Budget (omb) in the scientific assessment process. omb, which could earlier only critique policies during the mandatory regulatory review period can now intervene at every level of assessment, effectively controlling the substance and timing of all decisions on chemical risk assessments. The changes evoked outrage from Senate's Committee on Environmental and Public Works. Barbara Box, the committee's chairperson said, "These changes to epa's risk assessment programme are devastating. They put politics before science by letting the White House and federal polluters derail epa's scientific assessment of toxic chemicals.'

The new procedure requires that the White House and the Department of Defense (dod)

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