EPA Enhances Scientific Integrity and Strengthens Chemical Safety Reviews

The EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) on October 14, 2021, announced several actions to enhance scientific integrity and strengthen chemical safety reviews. These actions include the establishment of two new internal science policy advisory councils, the creation of a senior-level science policy advisor to the assistant administrator, and improvements to existing policies and procedures.

EPA chemical safety reviews

“Scientific integrity is the backbone of the work we do to ensure the safety of chemicals used in our everyday lives,” says Assistant Administrator for the OCSPP Michal Freedhoff. “Strong, sound science underpins confidence in our decision-making among the public that we serve. Today’s announcements are the latest in a series of steps OCSPP is taking to reaffirm our commitment to scientific integrity and restore the public trust.”

OCSPP Science Policy Council 

One of the newly created advisory panels is the OCSPP Science Policy Council. Its role is to provide advisory support and recommendations on science policy and scientific integrity issues arising from within its Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics and Office of Pesticide Programs. The council will be chaired by the person chosen for the newly created senior-level science policy advisor position. This position will be responsible for providing guidance on emerging science policy and scientific integrity matters and will serve as the deputy scientific integrity official for the OCSPP.

“The OCSPP Science Policy Council will provide an advisory perspective on matters related to scientific integrity; identify scientific questions that are of broad interest within OCSPP for informal review and, as appropriate, recommend a process for further addressing them; and foster informal opportunities for scientific collaboration within OCSPP,” states the EPA news release. “Members chosen to address specific issues or questions will be selected based on their expertise, impartiality on the issue or question, and may include EPA experts outside of OCSPP. The group is not intended to replace or otherwise interfere with the Agency’s Scientific Integrity Policy, the Agency Scientific Integrity Official’s role, or the Inspector General’s role.”

New Chemical Safety Reviews Strengthened

In response to the Biden-Harris administration’s Executive Orders, the OCSPP’s New Chemicals Division (NCD) has worked to catalogue, prioritize, and improve more than 100 standard operating procedures (SOPs) and decision-making and recordkeeping practices related to review and management of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

“Several policy changes have already been implemented, including stopping harmful new PFAS from entering the market and procedures to strengthen the review of new chemicals and ensure worker safety,” according to the news release.

Additionally, the NCD created the New Chemicals Advisory Committee (NCAC), which will review science and scientific policy issues related to new chemical submissions subject to TSCA.

Human Health Risk Assessment Process Improvements

“NCD solicited feedback from staff and implemented important changes to its process for reviewing and finalizing human health risk assessments,” the Agency states. “The new process provides additional opportunities for resolution of differing scientific opinions and invites input to the decision-making process to be provided by EPA subject matter experts outside of NCD.”

As a backup, in the event differing opinions cannot be resolved through this new risk assessment process, the new NCAC and the OCSPP Science Policy Council will offer additional expertise and advisors.

Enhanced Recordkeeping Requirements

Procedural changes have been implemented to improve decision documentation, including recording differing scientific opinions. Further review is still underway to make additional enhancements to this process, if necessary.

These actions “represent the next steps in OCSPP’s commitment to strong science in the review of chemicals and pesticides and ensure these reviews adhere to the Biden-Harris Administration’s Executive Orders and other directives, including those on scientific integrity and regulatory review,” the EPA states.