The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to improve its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program. IRIS is a publicly available online database that provides science-based human health assessments used to inform the agency’s decisions on protecting public health and the environment.

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to improve its Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) program. IRIS is a publicly available online database that provides science-based human health assessments used to inform the agency’s decisions on protecting public health and the environment

“Decision makers rely on the IRIS program for accessible, science-based health assessments of environmental contaminants,” said Paul Anastas, Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Research and Development. “Further strengthening the IRIS program is part of EPA’s commitment to continuous improvement and ensuring we use the best possible science to protect human health and the environment.”

The improvements will make IRIS even stronger. All new IRIS assessment documents will be shorter, clearer and more visual, concise, and transparent. IRIS users can expect to see a reduced volume of text and increased clarity and transparency of data, methods and decision criteria. Documents will be rigorously edited to eliminate inconsistencies and address redundancies and will include more graphical and tabular representations of data. Related discussions will also be consolidated into concise narrative descriptions.

To make the scientific rationale behind the assessments and toxicity values as transparent as possible, the EPA will evaluate and describe the strengths and weaknesses of critical studies in a more uniform way. The EPA will also indicate which criteria were most influential in evaluating the weight of the scientific evidence supporting its choice of toxicity values.

The latest actions are in direct response to recommendations received on April 8, 2011, from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

The EPA is working closely with the agency’s Science Advisory Board on how to bring to bear its expertise on an ongoing basis to focus on the quality, transparency and scientific rigor of IRIS assessments and guide the EPA’s response to the NAS recommendations.

The EPA will also create a new peer consultation step early in the development of major IRIS assessments to enhance the input of the scientific community as assessments are designed.

For more information about IRIS, visit www.epa.gov/iris. For information about the IRIS process, visit www.epa.gov/iris/process.htm.