Utilizing EPA Databases To Improve EHS Programs
The EPA website provides a tremendous amount of information which is readily available to the public. Somewhere within all of this information are useful resources that can be utilized to help you with your EHS efforts. Knowing how to utilize EPA databases can help improve your EHS programs. In this post we will utilize a number of these sources including:
- The IRIS database to check the toxicity of a chemical
- The Evirofacts database to check facilities in your area that are using toxic chemicals
- ECHO or the EPA search engine to search for enforcement activity or inspection reports.
The IRIS Database
If you are considering a new chemical or material you can utilize the IRIS database to assess the toxicity of that chemical. IRIS or Integrated Risk Information System is compiled by the EPA and contains data on human health risk assessment, including hazard identification and dose-response assessments. It provides descriptive and quantitative information related to human cancer and non-cancer health effects that may result from exposure to the substance in question. IRIS data is reviewed by EPA scientists and represents EPA consensus. IRIS should be a more reliable source of toxicity information than Wikipedia or google.
The EPA created IRIS in 1985 to provide an internal database of human health assessments for chemicals found in the environment. The objective of IRIS was to establish consistency in the evaluation of chemical toxicity across EPA. Since then, IRIS has become a valuable public resource as well. IRIS Program has evolved with the state of the science to develop high-quality evidence-based assessments and to solicit public input in the IRIS process.
To assess the toxicity of a product you are considering or already using, first obtain the safety data sheet (SDS) formerly know as the material data sheet (MSDS). The SDS should provide you with a lot of hazard information including (in Section 2) Hazard Classification, Hazard Pictograms, Signal Word, Hazard Statements and Precautionary Statements. Refer to section 3 in the SDS which lists the individual ingredients by name, CAS #, and percentage of the total mixture.
To check a specific ingredient in IRIS I recommend searching by CAS #, since a chemical can have multiple names but only one CAS #. Checking Formaldehyde CAS # (or CASRN) 50-00-1, for example (see Figure 1), you will notice formaldehyde shown in results. Click on “formaldehyde” and a record will be shown (see Figure 2) with information regarding “Health Hazard Assessments for Effects Other than Cancer” and “Cancer Assessment”. This summary view gives you the reference dose value for oral exposure and reference concentration for inhalation exposure, as part of the non cancer assessment. In the cancer assessment section you will notice that Formaldehyde is classified as a B1; probable human carcinogen. Now you know that according to EPA this chemical is a probable human carcinogen. I would advise against using any product that contains carcinogenic ingredients.
Try using the IRIS database to evaluate some products and if you are already using it good job! IRIS is also part of TOXNET.
Figure 1. Iris Search Page
Figure 2. Iris Information for Formaldehyde
The Evirofacts Database
The Envirofacts database pulls together more than twenty various EPA databases and provides information which the EPA collects on air emissions, water discharges, hazardous waste, toxic release inventory, etc. For example, you can use Envirofacts to check how many facilities in your area are regulated by the EPA and/or are working with hazardous chemicals. You can also check on your facility. You can search by geographic area, facility or by standard industrial code.
- Geographic – Enter a city or zipcode into the geographic search criteria for a snapshot of a specific area. You can zoom in or out to change the search radius
- Facility name/ID – Enter a facility name or ID search to review information for a specific facility. Facility name results may not exactly match the entered criteria if any of the program systems reporting for the facility match the search criteria. The EPA facility ID is the same across all program systems. Program System ID will correspond only to the specific program.
- NAICS/SIC – Enter the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)/Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code search criteria to get a snapshot of the facilities reporting for a particular industry.
Below is an example of a geographic search of Bridgeport, CT.
Figure 3. Envirofacts Results Page
Clicking on the facilities button will show a list of facilities within the radius. A list will be generated based on geographic area with facilities listed in the left column and various databases listed across the top.
You can search any of the following information (see Figure 4) including brownfields near your facility or companies that generate a large quantity of emissions or hazardous waste.
Figure 4. Databases that are part of Envirofacts
The ECHO Database and EPA Search Engine
The ECHO database and EPA search engine can be used to search for compliance activity and/or reports.
ECHO, or Enforcement and Compliance History Online, provides compliance and enforcement information for approximately 800,000 EPA-regulated facilities nationwide. ECHO contains permit, inspection, violation, enforcement action, and penalty information about facilities regulated under the Clean Air Act (CAA) Stationary Source Program, Clean Water Act (CWA) National Pollutant Elimination Discharge System (NPDES), and/or Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Information also is provided on surrounding demographics when available. You can check on the type of violations facilities have received for various EPA statutes.
The EPA search engine (located at the top right of the EPA site) can be used to find publicly available inspection reports that are similar to your facility to gain some insight into the type of compliance issues that have been identified. You can also learn the types of items the inspectors are looking at and reviewing during the facility inspections.
Here is an example of an inspection report:
In conclusion, IRIS, Envirofacts and ECHO are just some of the EPA databases that are available as research tools to obtain data pertinent to your facility. The EPA website provides a tremendous amount of information and knowing how to utilize EPA databases can help improve your EHS programs. For questions or further assistance please visit www.ecothinkgroup.com contact ECOthink group: