Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Union believes the EPA library closure has dangerous implications for public health.

The New Standard reports: Critics of the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest downsizing of scientific library materials say it threatens to strip access to information from the very people who help develop environmental policies.

The Agency this month closed the library that its own scientists use to research and evaluate new and existing chemicals before approving them for public use.

With no public announcement, the EPA shuttered the Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances Chemical Library as part of its 2006 plan to "modernize and improve" its network of 26 libraries by closing some physical spaces and digitizing library holdings. The plan, released in August, was spurred by the Bush administration’s proposed cuts to EPA library funding. ...
Bill Hirzy, a senior scientist with the EPA for 25 years and vice president of the National Treasury Employees Union, the union which represents EPA employees, told TNS that the union believes the library closure has dangerous implications for public health.

Hirzy said when evaluating a chemical, scientists must look at such things as "toxicity to humans and other mammals. Will it be an ozone-depletor? Will it travel through groundwater?" He continued, "And where this information resides is, guess where? In the library."

One arm of the EPA that uses the library, the Office of Pollution, Prevention and Toxics, regulates testing of new and existing chemicals.

Hirzy also said he is not convinced that the EPA will quickly and efficiently transfer all of the library’s hardcopy information into electronic databases.

He said scientists will have to "hope that [they] can track the information down through some system of computers instead of being able to take the elevator down to the third floor and find the information right there in front of you."

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