Aging and Toxic Response (EPA review)

from the list-serv, EPA Aging List Serve, August 2006

Aging and Toxic Response: Issues Relevant to Risk Assessment

EPA has just released a final report entitled, Aging and Toxic Response: Issues Relevant to Risk Assessment. This report is intended to orient EPA scientists and risk assessors to physiological and biochemical factors in the older adult population that may influence their responses to exposures from environmental chemicals. While not a comprehensive review of literature, the document identifies several data gaps and research needs that may inform the Office of Research and Development’s Research Initiative on Aging in conducting research to better characterize risk to the older adult population from exposure to environmental agents. For a [PDF] copy of the report please go to


In the process of reviewing toxicology testing paradigms currently in use within the Agency for hazard characterization, the Risk Assessment Forum’s Reference Dose (RfD) Technical Panel identified aging as an area needing additional consideration within the risk assessment process. The need to consider the aged or elderly as a special subpopulation when assessing risk to human health is supported by a number of considerations, e.g., the potential for the elderly to metabolize environmental agents differently than younger adults, and the proposal that environmental exposures may be related to the onset of certain diseases of the elderly (e.g., Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases).

This document, developed by Versar, Inc., summarizes the current knowledge on the changes occurring in the aged and how these changes alter, or have the potential to alter the response to a toxicant. Following a discussion of issues which define the aged, the authors address the various biological changes that occur during the aging process. The authors conclude the document with a discussion on the impact these aging changes have on the human response to environmental challenges.

Biologically speaking, older people, especially of minority populations, are often overlooked. But risk assessment is also a cultural (socioeconomic process). This report needs to be compared with EPA’s earlier effort to reduce the value of older people’s lives that might be affected by environmental hazards.

What’s an older person’s life worth? EPA saying it’s less in drafting new rules
By Don Hopey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Tuesday, April 15, 2003 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is coming to Pittsburgh next week and could get an earful on its plan to place a lesser value on the lives of senior citizens when calculating the benefits of environmental regulations.

Dubbed the “Senior Death Discount” by environmental groups, the Bush administration has proposed reducing the value of a senior citizen’s life to 63 percent or less of the $6.1 million value
per individual it uses when doing required cost-benefit analysis for environmental programs….

Regulators must weigh benefits against costs for regulations expected to have economic effects
greater than $100 million, so lower life values could have the effect of limiting the reach of anti-pollution rules….

Placing Lower Value on Senior Lives Stirs Anger
Some U.S. studies use a figure 37% below that for younger people. Key official defends practice.
By Miguel Bustillo, Times Staff Writer la-me-old30apr30002430,0,7357106.story?coll=la-news-science

April 30, 2003

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency came to UCLA on Tuesday to hear from older Americans how it can better protect them from pollution – and got an earful from an audience alarmed about a White House official who believes the lives of the elderly should count for less when Washington considers certain new health rules.

The “senior listening tour” was part of the EPA’s Aging Initiative, a new plan by agency Administrator Christie Whitman to rethink the assumptions used to set environmental regulations
now that many older Americans are living longer….

“OMB and EPA recognize that the life-years of the elderly are precious,” Graham said. “In recent rules, a value of $172,000 has been assigned to each year of life for those under age 65
compared to $273,000 for each year of life for seniors.”

OMB officials said Tuesday that the cost benefit method that gives less weight to the elderly is not currently being contemplated for any future regulations.


1 Response to “Aging and Toxic Response (EPA review)”

  1. 1 How to calculate hazardous materials exposure for older adults « O’Folks Trackback on 2007 August 3 at 9:44 pm
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