By Samantha G. Birk, Public Affairs OfficeJune 11, 2018
The Army Public Health Center's Director of Toxicology, Dr. Mark S. Johnson, has recently been appointed to serve on the Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Committee on Chemicals.
The committee will evaluate the risks and benefits of certain chemicals compounds, assign safety levels to chemicals, and, if necessary, outlaw chemicals for certain uses. It assesses approximately 20 chemical compounds a year and examines its different uses and side effects. This committee is important to public health because while there are over 50,000 chemical compounds in consumer consumption, only 2,000 have been extensively studied.
John Resta, director of APHC, was pleased that an Army public health expert will serve on the committee, and expressed his confidence in Johnson's ability to serve on the committee.
"Dr. Johnson is extremely well suited to this position," said Resta. "His scientific expertise combined with his leadership talents will allow him to build consensus among all of the stakeholders involved in chemical safety, ensuring that the American public is protected from chemical hazards while continuing to benefit from advances in the chemical sciences."
The committee brings together experts from industry, academia and government to balance the scientific perspective. The committee currently has 26 members with a wide range of expertise including, but not limited to, toxicology, risk assessment, ecology, chemistry, pathology, epidemiology and public health. A key objective of the committee is to bring a balanced scientific perspective on available data for substances being reviewed under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act which amends the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the nation's primary chemicals management law.
Johnson explains the balance of safety and practicality as, "It's easy to keep everything safe but zero exposure isn't feasible. The challenge is to comprehensively conduct and objectively evaluate the available data."
Johnson, who has served as the APHC's director of toxicology since August 2012, will be one of the few government representatives on the panel. His expertise differs from that of the EPA's because the military focuses more on military-unique compounds, whereas the EPA focuses more on carbon-based compounds. Another advantage Johnson will bring to the table is the knowledge of different processes used to evaluate compounds.
"Some of the processes we (the Army) have been using to evaluate toxicity levels are evaluations they (the EPA) are just beginning to use," said Johnson.
The SACC appointment will last 2-3 years. Johnson will also continue his duties as the director of toxicology for APHC during this period.