Last modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Expert source: EPA's 40th anniversary brings scientific challenges
Editors: James E. Klaunig is professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Health in Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. He has served on the scientific advisory board and numerous research review panels for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the past 25 years and served as Indiana's state toxicologist for 12 years. He offers his perspective on the 40th anniversary of the EPA on Thursday and its future challenges. To speak with Klaunig, contact Cindy Miller, School of HPER, at 812-855-1354 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Tracy James, University Communications, at 812-855-0084 and email@example.com.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dec. 1, 2010
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- James E. Klaunig, toxicologist and chair of the Department of Environmental Health in Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency initially was created as an enforcement agency, yet its research activities have since grown to become internationally respected, particularly in the last 15 to 20 years.
Over the last 25 years, Klaunig has served on the EPA's scientific advisory panel, chaired a number of research program reviews and served on panels that evaluated the toxicity of chemicals.
"From a scientific and regulatory standpoint, one of the major issues facing environmental science and environmental health in the future is how to evaluate and assess the potential risk of chemicals in the environment to humans," he said. "We can find remnants and examples of chemicals in the air, water and soil at very low levels."
For example, when Klaunig began working and researching in this field 35 years ago, scientists knew there were 'some' toxic chemicals in the drinking water at very low levels. However, with the latest analytical technology, scientists can now find thousands of chemicals in minuscule quantities in water.
"The question is 'How do you take that information and apply it to risk for humans, taking into account the very low levels and the potential additive toxic effects of mixtures of these chemicals?'" he said. "It's more complicated. We live in a chemical world and we're exposed to chemicals at different doses at different times in our lives."
In the past, scientists relied on animal-based or epidemiological studies to assess the risk of human exposure. Now, the EPA is taking the lead by replacing the use of rodents for testing the toxic effects and instead using newer technologies to better assess human risks of the large number of chemicals.
"We don't have the resources to continue to assess toxicity and human risk using the classical 20th century bioassay approaches. The U.S. EPA has been instrumental in developing and applying new technologies along with dose relevant mechanisms of action approaches to human risk assessment. This allows us to better define potential detrimental effects of chemicals in the environment to humans," Klaunig said.
Another perspective on the EPA at 40
IU professor A. James Barnes was a first-hand witness to the creation of the EPA. The former dean of IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs was a special assistant to William Ruckelshaus, the first EPA administrator, and later his chief of staff. Barnes recalls his experiences here: http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/16566.html .