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Master's Professional Reports Abstract

Texas' Effects Screening Levels: The Secret to Air Quality Regulation or the Secret Behind Air Quality Regulation

The Effects Screening Level Program (ESL) is a regulatory toll designed to quickly assess air permit applications for their potential harm on the public health and physical property of the state of Texas. The purpose of this report is to evaluate the bases for the program, the ESL values themselves, from statutory, technical, and policy perspectives.

This report shows that the ESL program appears to operate within the scope of state and federal law, and is flexible enough to provide both quick assessments of air permit applications and adjustments to individual ESL values. However, the report also shows that the ESL program does not do so in a safe and valid manner by:

  1. using proven faulty data as the basis for at least a third of the chemicals on the ESL list,
  2. using methods of deriving and changing ESLs which have yet to be validated,
  3. failing to account for human toxicological variances and chemical toxicological phenomena which are known to exist, and
  4. failing to adequately document past agency actions regarding ESLs, thus precluding both the assurance of consistent application and access to data for historical assessments of the program.
In short, neither TARA nor anyone else knows whether the ESLs provide a safe level of protection for the state of Texas. They and we should know.

--Author's foreword.