EPA pushes ‘transparency’ rule as science advisors dissent

EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) is meeting June 5-6, 2019 to discuss key issues underlying how the Agency evaluates and uses science in policy decisions.

Dr. Tracey Woodruff, Professor and Director at the University of California, San Francisco Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, gave this statement:

Listening to today’s EPA meeting with its Science Advisory Board, it’s clear the agency is going through the motions and not really interested in what its advisors have to say. EPA is not only ignoring its science advisors, it’s ignoring best scientific practices as it moves to finalize the censored science rule. This is another sad day for public health in this administration.


Background

EPA’s science ‘transparency’ proposed rule, also known as the censored science rule, has drawn widespread criticism from scientists, doctors, children’s health researchers and universities because it will exclude relevant science from the Agency’s consideration. Universities and health care organizations weighing in include the following:

  • All 154 accredited U.S. medical schools and nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems through the Association of American Medical Colleges
  • 62 leading research universities through the Association of American Universities
  • 239 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations through the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  • 187 research universities, affiliated medical centers, and independent research institutes through the Council on Governmental Relations

The SAB previously requested to conduct a full review of the rule, but in an April letter, Administrator Wheeler gave the Board a far narrower charge of consulting on confidential business information and personally identifiable information only. At the June 5 SAB meeting, the Board voted almost unanimously to provide more comprehensive input on the entire rule, citing numerous unresolved scientific and technical issues.

The SAB is also charged with discussing updates to EPA’s risk assessment guidelines for cancer and non-cancer health effects. EPA staff stated at the SAB meeting they have been directed to complete updates by the end of 2019. EPA’s risk assessment guidelines play a critical role in informing how the Agency will analyze the evidence on chemicals which is ultimately used in its policy decisions. Thus it is vital that EPA’s guidelines are accurate, reflect current science, and support evidence-based decision making that will protect people’s health, especially our most vulnerable populations. Academics, scientists and health professionals wrote a letter to the SAB highlighting the need for a deliberate and transparent process, free of financial conflicts of interest, for updating the guidelines. However, at the meeting EPA did not even commit to getting further input from the SAB, much less instituting the lengthier and open process recommended by experts.