In Letter to Lawmaker, Orszag Defers to EPA on Endocrine Disruptors

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, today released a letter he received from Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, indicating that OMB intends to defer to the EPA 's scientific and technical expertise in determining what data is needed to assess the threat that chemicals known as "endocrine disruptors" may pose to human health.Last month, Chairman Markey wrote to the OMB to express concerns over press reports suggesting OMB may have been interfering with the EPA’s implementation of the program. In comments on EPA’s data collection request, OMB suggested that EPA use existing data in lieu of performing the tests necessary to identify chemicals that can damage the human endocrine system. Mr. Orszag’s response to Markey’s inquiry expressed support for ensuring that science was the driving force in the implementation of The Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) and subsequent protection of public health.

I commend the OMB’s commitment to sound science and independent regulation of endocrine disruptors by EPA to ensure that public health is appropriately protected,” said Markey. “Every day, the public is potentially exposed to hundreds of dangerous chemicals, many of which can and may be contributing to the rise in obesity, thyroid disorders, infertility and certain types of cancers."

The OMB has assured me that it has not and will not interfere with EPA’s authority to make the scientific decisions related to implementing the EDSP. The Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program is the only comprehensive program designed to evaluate all pesticides and other chemicals for their ability to disrupt biological processes. I remain committed to ensuring that EPA continues to develop an endocrine screening program that will protect the public from the potential dangers of these types of chemicals.”

Chairman Markey followed up on OMB’s response during Tuesday’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection hearing on “Prioritizing Chemicals for Safety Determination.” At the hearing Chairman Markey told Steve Owens, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances about OMB’s letter and asked whether Mr. Owens was confident that EPA will have the ability to get the data necessary to carry out the EDSP. Mr. Owens responded that EPA will be able to access the scientific data needed to appropriately regulate this class of chemicals.

In its letter to Chairman Markey, OMB stressed that it has not and will not interfere with EPA making the scientific decisions necessary to carry out EDSP according to the statutory mandates. Mr. Orszag stated; “I share your belief that EPA must continue to have a robust endocrine testing program and I reiterate the OMB fully supports the EPA’s sole authority to make the scientific decisions related to this effort.”

In 1996, the EPA was directed to develop a screening program to test chemicals for endocrine disrupting effects. However, this EDSP is just now getting off the ground, 13 years after the legislation creating in was enacted into law.

On October 2, in response to EPA’s request to begin collecting the information needed to assess these chemicals, OMB instructed EPA to accept “existing data” and other scientifically relevant information (OSRI) supplied by companies that manufacture these chemicals “in lieu of performing all or some” of the tests necessary to identify chemicals that have endocrine disrupting properties. Chairman Markey’s letter raised questions about whether this directive was intended to prevent EPA scientists from seeking all relevant toxicological studies about these chemicals.

Chairman Markey concluded, "In some previous administrations, OMB has at times been used by industry opponents to try and gut sound environmental regulations under the rubric of 'paperwork reduction."  I am encouraged by Director Orszag's statement that he recognizes the need to have a robust testing program to determine the nature of the risks that endocrine disrupting chemicals pose to human health."

A copy of Orszag’s Letter can be found here:

A copy of Markey’s original letter to Orszag have been found here:

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