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EPA Announces the Membership of the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals
Charles M. Auer and Oscar Hernandez, Ph.D.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) announced on its website on February 9, 2017, that it has established the Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals (SACC). EPA was required to form the SACC within one year after enactment of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The timing is interesting given that the deadline for public comments on the nominees was January 9, 2017, and the EPA Administrator appointed the 18 experts a mere eight days later on January 17 (a full five months ahead of the Congressional deadline), yet the announcement was held until its posting, over three weeks later, on February 9. It thus is the case that the Obama Administration took very prompt steps to ensure that formation was completed during its period in office, perhaps in an effort to select a membership more to its liking and preferences.
Based on our quick review of the affiliations of the 18 experts selected for the SACC, this seems to be the case. Of the members, nine are associated with academic institutions, four with industry (with two from the pharmaceutical industry, one from a trade association (Toy Industry Association), and one a former Dow Chemical Company employee currently with Underwriters Laboratories), two with non-governmental institutions (American Cancer Society and the Humane Society), and three with federal and state government. While there are no members hailing from an environmental advocacy group, similarly there are no members currently affiliated with a chemical company.
Regarding backgrounds, there is an emphasis on expertise associated with exposure and response research on susceptible populations, with nine members having explicit or related expertise on this topic, six of which are experts from academia. In contrast, the panel does not seem to include a breadth of experience in exposure or risk assessment. There are two members who previously chaired EPA’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee, a group that in our view is better known for advocacy than rigorous science.
As many readers will know, the chemical industry had offered critical comments on the slate of nominees that was announced by EPA in the December 9, 2016, Federal Register notice, but little consideration seems to have been given to those comments. At a minimum, it seems self- evident that the current membership would not have been the selection made under the Trump Administration. How all of this will play through under the new Trump Administration is yet to be seen but could get interesting.