Federal–State Toxicology and Risk Analysis Committee (FSTRAC): Communication and Coordination of Toxicology and Risk Assessment of Environmental Contaminants
During the 1970s Congress enacted a series of landmark environmental laws to address air, land, and water pollution problems. Initially, the responsibility for developing and implementing specific regulations to achieve the results mandated by these laws was seen as belonging largely to the EPA. However, during the mid-to late 1970s, it became increasingly clear that states play an important role in the regulatory process. In addition to monitoring and implement-ing federal regulations, the states often draft their own environmental regulations. Under the SDWA and the CWA, state regulations must be as protective as the federal regulations or more protective. Hence, in some cases, state water quality guidelines and criteria including drinking water maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) are more protective than federal limits and criteria. In the early 1980s officials in the EPA Office of Water and states involved in human health risk assessment, which provides the scientific foundation for drinking water and ambient water regulations, recognized a need for more communication and coordination to enhance the links between federal and state risk assessment activities related to drinking and ambient water. In 1984, without the prompting of a mandate for cooperative interaction, federal and state officials formed FSTRAC to foster cooperation, consistency, and understanding of each other’s goals and problems regarding human health risk assessment. Since that time, FSTRAC has served to facilitate the exchange of technical information, research findings, and policy concerns in the area of human health risk assessment, with particular focus on issues relating to development and implementation of SDWA and CWA regulations and criteria. FSTRAC brings together professionals with many different areas of expertise to develop integrated approaches to risk assessment for drinking water contaminants and standard setting issues. Representatives from academia and nonprofit industry and consulting groups are also welcome to participate; collaboration and exchange of ideas between all these groups improves the success of regulatory programs. FSTRAC represents a very useful forum for states to obtain information about the EPA’s “works in progress” (regulations, methodologies, databases, policies, etc.) and for EPA headquarters personnel to learn about the experiences, concerns and needs of states. The exchange of information made possible by FSTRAC has
helped to ensure that scientists working in the field of toxicology and risk assessment are using the most current data and methodologies available, that the issues of highest priority are being addressed by the scientific and regulatory community, and that the EPA and states conduct research in a way that avoids duplication. From a handful of members in 1984, FSTRAC has grown to a total of over 150 members. Although FSTRAC maintains an open door policy, most members represent the Human Health Risk Assessment Branch of the EPA’s Office of Water, the EPA’s regional offices, and state drinking or surface water programs. Currently FSTRAC includes representatives from the EPA headquarters, all 10 EPA regions, 45 state health and environmental agencies, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and two International members, one from Health Canada, Ottawa and another from the Institut National de Sante Publique du Quebec in Quebec City, Canada. At every meeting or video-audio webinar, in addition to the invited speaker(s) who deliver their talk or present the webinar, there is an opportunity for states and regions to discuss issues of common interest, develop possible solutions or discuss specific standard setting procedures under development by the states or the EPA. The state updates on their risk assessment and regulatory activities not only provide a useful summary of states’ interests and activities, but also provide a background and focus for planning the next year’s meeting.