the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new
guidelines for assessing cancer risk from exposures to
environmental pollutants, including the first such guidelines
specifically addressing cancer risks to children. In the works
for years, the two documents are supposed to guide EPA
scientists in their investigations.
“These guidelines will help us apply the most up-to-date
science and to incorporate new science as it becomes available
in assessing the risks associated with environmental exposures
to carcinogens,” says Acting Assistant Administrator for the
Office of Research and Development Tim Oppelt. “EPA’s guiding
principle is that our cancer risk assessments be public health
But opponents are saying the guidelines make it too easy
for industry to raise obstacles that would delay
identification and regulation of dangerous chemicals and thus
endanger public health.
One set of guidelines describes possible approaches that
EPA could use in assessing cancer risks exposures to children
from 0 to 16 years of age. It includes a review of existing
scientific literature on chemical effects in animals and
humans. The young peoples’ guidance summarizes the results of
cancer studies that investigated early life exposure, EPA’s
analysis of those studies, and analysis to strengthen the
scientific basis for adjusting from studies conducted in
adults to children.
The agency says this document is consistent with the
National Research Council’s 1994 recommendation that “EPA
assess risks to infants and children whenever it appears that
their risks might be greater than those of adults.”
But the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is
critical of the new guidelines, saying that the White House
Office of Management and Budget undermined them by “inserting
language in the guidelines that make it easy for industry to
block EPA from following them when assessing cancer-causing
“The White House decided it was more important to protect
the chemical industry than protect our kids from cancer,” says
Dr. Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist with NRDC’s
environmental health program.
The Office of Management and Budget inserted language
allowing for “expert elicitation,” opening the door for any
outside party to challenge the way EPA applies the guidelines
to assess chemicals, Sass says.
Such a challenge could slow the agency down for months, if
not years, in making a decision on regulating a cancer-causing
chemical, according to NRDC.
The Office of Management and Budget also weakened the
guidelines by adding language requiring any EPA cancer
evaluation to meet the standards of the Data Quality Act, a
law designed by tobacco industry consultants to quash
protective regulations, Sass says.
By opening the process to relentless industry challenges,
she said, the White House “set the bar so high that children
will not be adequately protected from many cancer-causing
Read both documents online at: http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=116283