The Big Chart of Federal Chemical Evaluations & Assessments

Today, I’m excited to share an infographic that I made, depicting all of the different chemical evaluations and assessments that various federal agencies (in the U.S.) conduct.

If you want to hear about the backstory & process for creating this, read on below.

Otherwise, here’s a link to a PDF version of the graphic. There are hyperlinks throughout, if you want to explore any of the information further. Yes, I know this is very detailed; it is meant to be digested by zooming around to different sections of the graphic.

I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible. But if you catch something that doesn’t look right, please let me know.

I hope this helps the environmental health community (and others who might be interested) better understand the review processes that are intended to keep us safe (unless/until politics get in the way…).

The backstory

In April, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Control (ATSDR) released a draft ToxProfile for glyphosate. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I’ve been paying a lot of attention to glyphosate lately (see some of my recent posts here and here). Given my interest in this topic, I decided to review the document and take the opportunity to prepare public comments.

[What are public comments, you might ask? Public comments are a way for the public to provide feedback during the federal rulemaking process. Under the Administrative Procedure Act (1946), whenever a federal agency develops a new regulation, they are required to solicit input from the public. (For more on the public comment process and how you can get involved, check out the Public Comment Project!)]

As I was reviewing ATSDR’s ToxProfile, I realized that I did not fully understand how this effort was distinct from EPA’s assessment of glyphosate. ATSDR and EPA are two separate federal agencies with different missions, so clearly these assessments served different purposes.

I soon realized that elucidating this distinction was just one part of a larger story. So, I decided to create a master chart to better understand all of the different types of reviews, evaluations, and assessments that different federal agencies conduct, the main purposes of these evaluations, and what other processes or regulations they might relate to.

The process

Some of the agency assessments were quite familiar to me or fairly well-explained online; for example, those that EPA is supposed to conduct under the recently reformed Toxic Substances Control Act. It was surprisingly hard to get clear information on other assessments and related agency activities, however (even for me, someone who is relatively well-versed in this field). Specifically, I found the online information for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to be a bit confusing. I actually ended up calling several people at these agencies (using phone numbers listed online) to get clarifying information. (Thank you to those federal employees who picked up my cold calls and answered my questions!)

I started collecting this information in an excel chart, but this format is not very conducive to easy online reading or sharing. So, I decided to challenge myself to make an infographic, which I had never done before. I experimented with various online tools before settling on draw.io, which I also used to make the timeline in the glyphosate meta-analysis. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say, this took me a LONG time (sorry, dissertation, I’ll get back to you soon).

I imagine that I’ll continue to refine this over the next few months/years. If you see anything that looks wrong or have suggestions for improvement, let me know.

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