2008 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lennysiegel@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2008 15:31:40 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: [CPEO-BIF] Getting the Fox out of the Henhouse
[Please excuse the duplicate postings. - LS]

Getting the Fox out of the Henhouse:
Restoring the Integrity of EPA's Process for Determining the Toxicity of Industrial and Military Chemicals

Testimony by Lenny Siegel
Executive Director
Center for Public Environmental Oversight

before the
Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight
House Committee on Science and Technology
June 12, 2008

Executive Summary

The Environmental Protection Agency's Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) is the foundation of most of the federal, state, and tribal risk management decisions that determine the safety of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and soil under our feet. The quantitative judgments embedded in IRIS may read like a foreign language or quantum physics to most Americans, but they affect our health, our environment, and our property.

Unfortunately, over the past several years, the White House and federal agencies that are among the world's greatest polluters have hijacked EPA's authority to conduct human health risk assessments. EPA's April announcement of a new IRIS process simply institutionalizes an approach - used for perchlorate and trichloroethylene (TCE) - that unnecessarily puts Americans at risk. In lay terms, the fox is now managing the henhouse.

In my prepared testimony I tell the story of trichloroethylene. Federal agencies have delayed and perhaps prevented the establishment of more protective health standards for TCE, following a pattern that appears to be a precedent for the new IRIS process. In 2001 EPA issued a Draft Human Health Risk Assessment for TCE. Though its Science Advisory Board generally endorsed that study, EPA - under pressure from the White House and federal polluting agencies - withdrew the 2001 findings. It turned the issue of TCE toxicity over to the Interagency Working Group and sent it to the National Academies of Sciences for re-review. Meanwhile, EPA scientists significantly weakened the standards they were using to guide vapor intrusion investigations in my community of Mountain View, California. Though in July 2006 the Academies of Sciences told EPA and the other agencies to move quickly to promulgate a TCE standard, EPA has done little.

EPA risk findings make a difference. It's the difference between response and inaction in the bedroom of Jane's son in Mountain View, California. It's the difference between water treatment and inaction in Shirley's former home in Bayport, Minnesota. According to an Air Force scientist, it's a difference of $5 billion in the cost of groundwater treatment at 1400 Defense Department sites.

People impacted by TCE, perchlorate, and other toxic substances have called upon EPA to withdraw its recent IRIS changes and instead create a process based upon the three following principles:

1. All stakeholders, including the affected public, private polluters, and federal polluting agencies, should have the same access to the decision-making process for the assessment of hazardous substances.

2. Federally funded risk-relevant research should be managed by agencies that do not have conflicts of interest - that is, agencies that will incur significant costs or encumbrances associated with more protective health and environmental standards should not control these research activities.

3. The entire process of assessing hazardous substances should be carried out in the sunshine, with oversight by the public, the press, and by Congress.


To download all of Lenny Siegel's prepared testimony, go to

To download other statements from the hearing, as well as the webcast, go to http://www.science.house.gov/publications/hearings_markups_details.aspx?NewsID=2217


Lenny Siegel
Executive Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
a project of the Pacific Studies Center
278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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