In the summer of 2019, I unveiled “The Big Chart of Chemical Evaluations and Assessments” (and an associated blog post) – my first attempt at mapping the different ways that federal agencies evaluate chemical hazard and risk.
Today, I’ve published an updated version of this concept as part of an article in Environmental Science & Technology: Environmental Health Risk Assessment in the Federal Government: A Visual Overview and a Renewed Call for Coordination. A static version of the infographic is posted below, and an interactive version – with active hyperlinks associated with all underlined text – is available for free download as a ZIP file in the supporting information section of the article.
The first part of the article introduces the infographic and discusses how it might be useful to the environmental health community (i.e., in risk assessment courses, or to identify public engagement opportunities).
The second part of the article suggests that this infographic (which looks daunting, even to me!) could motivate improved coordination and collaboration – both between and within agencies. The existing decentralized system allows each agency to develop specialized assessments focused on particular exposure scenarios, but it neglects the fact that we are exposed to the same chemicals from multiple sources that cross agency boundaries (for example, from food (the domain of FDA) and water (the domain of EPA)). To address this reality, we need more consistent consideration of aggregate risk (risk from multiple sources and pathways).
There are various ways to improve collaboration and conduct assessments that better reflect these “real-world” scenarios. The Government Accountability Office and the National Research Council have recommended ongoing or ad-hoc interagency coordinating committees. The European Commission has recently decided to take a more ambitious approach, with a new “one substance, one assessment” model. Given the Biden administration’s renewed commitment to protecting public health and the environment, the next few years could be a good time to explore these options.
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While the article is behind a paywall, the interactive infographic is available for free download as a ZIP file in the “supporting information” as noted above. If you’d like a copy of the full article but don’t have access, feel free to reach out to me.