Prioritizing speed over public participation will ‘undermine credibility’ of risk assessments

25 July 2019 / Halocarbons, Solvents, TSCA, United States

By Kelly Franklin, Chemical Watch

A coalition of NGOs has urged the US EPA to delay its peer reviews of the TSCA draft risk evaluations for the solvent 1,4-dioxane and the flame retardant HBCD to avoid a perception that the agency is “trying to wall off” critical voices from the process.

The request came ahead of the EPA’s 25 July Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC) peer review of the two assessments, the second and third to be released out of a group of ten priority substances. Issued on 28 July, the draft evaluations propose to conclude that cyclic aliphatic bromide cluster (HBCD) does not pose an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment and that 1,4-dioxane does present a risk to workers in certain circumstances.

However, five NGOs – Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, Center for Environmental Health and Environmental Health Strategy Center – have criticized the timeframe for the peer review of the multi-hundred page documents.

In an 11 July letter, the groups point out that the agency released the assessments just three weeks before their five-day SACC review. And with the written comment period not ending until 30 August, they write, the full set of comments will not be available to peer reviewers. “This will deprive the SACC of a critical source of independent scientific feedback that would be invaluable in its review,” they say.

The groups acknowledge that the agency is under a tight deadline to complete its reviews by December, but argue that a postponement will not “materially affect” when the evaluations are finalized.

Moreover, they add: “Insofar as EPA is prioritizing speed over public participation … this will only undermine the credibility and quality of EPA’s evaluations, which are already under a significant cloud, and create a perception that the agency is trying to wall off SACC from critical voices that it thinks could adversely influence its conclusions and recommendations.”

The groups have urged the EPA to “fix its flawed process” by delaying the meeting until late September and to schedule SACC meetings on the remaining seven evaluations after the close of their comment periods.

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