EPA NEWS: EPA Announces Next Steps To Enhance Scientific Integrity And Strengthen New Chemical Safety Reviews

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dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

News Releases from Headquarters > Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP)

October 14, 2021

WASHINGTON (Oct. 14, 2021) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) announced several actions to enhance scientific integrity, including establishing two internal science policy advisory councils, creating a new senior-level career position to serve as a science policy advisor to the Assistant Administrator, and making further improvements to policies and procedures.

In March of this year, OCSPP issued an office-wide memorandum that affirmed its commitment to scientific integrity as an essential and critical element in all work done in the office, a commitment also affirmed as one of Administrator Michael S. Regan’s first acts following his confirmation. The actions announced today 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.

“Scientific integrity is the backbone of the work we do to ensure the safety of chemicals used in our everyday lives,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. Strong, sound science is the foundation of our decision-making for the public 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.”

Today’s announcement includes the following actions:

New OCSPP Science Policy Council and New Science Policy Advisor Position

OSCPP is forming a new internal advisory group, the OCSPP Science Policy Council, to provide advisory support and recommendations on science policy and scientific integrity issues that arise within its Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics and Office of Pesticide Programs. A science policy advisor will lead the OCSPP Science Council. This new role will report to OCSPP’s Assistant Administrator and will provide guidance and support on science policy and scientific integrity issues. OCSPP’s science policy advisor will also be the deputy official responsible for scientific integrity.

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. The members chosen to address specific questions or issues will be chosen based on their expertise and impartiality. This group does not intend to replace or interfere with the Agency’s Scientific Integrity policy, the Agency Scientific Integrity Officer’s role, or that of the Inspector General.

Strengthening New Chemical Safety Reviews

As part of OCSPP’s broader review of policies and procedures to ensure the program effectively implements the Biden-Harris Administration’s executive orders, other directives, and principles of scientific integrity, OCSPP’s New Chemicals Division (NCD) engaged in a top-to-bottom effort to catalogue, prioritize, and improve its standard operating procedures (SOPs), decision-making and record-keeping practices related to review and management of new chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). To date, NCD has inventoried and reviewed over 100 different SOPs, guidances and science policies, and prioritized those that NCD expects to be updated over the next year. 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.

New Chemicals Advisory Committee

The New Chemicals Division has also formed the New Chemicals Advisory Committee (NCAC) that, similar to other long-standing internal advisory bodies within OCSPP, will serve as an advisory body to review both scientific and science policy issues related to new chemical submissions subject to TSCA. The OCSPP Science Policy Council and NCAC could offer additional options for discussion if differing opinions are not resolved by the improvements to the human risk assessment process.

The NCAC builds upon similarly structured advisory bodies within OCSPP and provides an opportunity for additional independent subject matter experts to participate in the discussion on scientific work products and cross cutting science policies. The NCAC was developed with input from the EPA’s Scientific Integrity Official to ensure compliance to the agency’s Scientific Integrity Policy. The NCAC’s operation will be reviewed regularly and, if necessary, refined.

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. This new process offers additional options for resolving divergent scientific opinions. It also invites input from EPA subject matter experts to help with the decision-making process.

Enhanced Recording-keeping Requirements

Proper documentation of decisions, and any differing scientific opinions of those decisions are a significant component of EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy. We have made some improvements to our procedures in order to improve documentation.

Workplace Climate Assessment

Last month, with the support of an independent contractor, OCSPP launched a workplace climate assessment of the NCD to capture feedback from employees and management about any potential workplace barriers and opportunities for organizational improvement. Over the next months, this effort will be expanded to include other parts of OCSPP.

OCSPP leadership will use the feedback collected through this effort to understand, evaluate, and, if necessary, make changes in OCSPP’s work practices and culture in order to promote collaboration and enhance the science that OCSPP uses in our program decision making.

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