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Environmental Assessment

Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS)

Report Information

The Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), prepared and maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), is an electronic data base containing information on human health effects that may result from exposure to various chemicals in the environment.

Background:

IRIS was initially developed for EPA staff in response to a growing demand for consistent information on chemical substances for use in risk assessments, decision-making and regulatory activities. The information in IRIS is intended for those without extensive training in toxicology, but with some knowledge of health sciences.

The heart of the IRIS system is its collection of computer files covering individual chemicals. These chemical files contain descriptive and quantitative information in the following categories:

  • Oral reference doses and inhalation reference concentrations (RfDs and RfCs, respectively) for chronic noncarcinogenic health effects.
  • Hazard identification, oral slope factors, and oral and inhalation unit risks for carcinogenic effects.
Other Sources

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Technical Information Staff
  • by phone at:   703-347-8561
  • by fax at:   703-347-8691
  • by email at:  nceadc.comment@epa.gov

Additional Information

In general IRIS values cannot be validly used to accurately predict the incidence of human disease or the type of effects that chemical exposures have on humans. This is due to the numerous uncertainties involved in risk assessment, including those associated with extrapolations from animal data to humans and from high experimental doses to lower environmental exposures. The organs affected and the type of adverse effect resulting from chemical exposure may differ between study animals and humans. In addition, many factors besides exposure to a chemical influence the occurrence and extent of human disease.

Any alteration to an RfD, RfC, slope factor or unit risk as they appear in IRIS (for example, the use of more or fewer uncertainty factors than were applied to arrive at an RfD) invalidates and distorts their application in estimating the potential health risk posed by chemical exposure.

Each reference dose/concentration and carcinogenicity assessment has been reviewed by a group of EPA health scientists using consistent chemical hazard identification and dose-response assessment methods. These methods are discussed or referenced in the Background Documents. It is important to note that the information in IRIS may be revised by EPA, as appropriate, when additional health effects data become available and new developments in assessment methods are adopted.

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