scientific data regarding Hg toxicity, Congress directed EPA, in the appropriations report for EPA's fiscal 1999 funding, to request the National Academy of Sciences to perform an independent study on the toxicological effects of MeHg and to prepare recommendations on the establishment of a scientifically appropriate MeHg exposure reference dose (RfD).2
In response to the request, the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering convened the Committee on Toxicological Effects of Methylmercury, whose members have expertise in the fields of toxicology, pharmacology, medicine, epidemiology, neurophysiology, developmental psychology, public health, nutrition, statistics, exposure assessment, and risk assessment. Specifically, the committee was assigned the following tasks:
Evaluate the body of evidence that led to EPA's current RfD for MeHg. On the basis of available human epidemiological and animal toxicity data, determine whether the critical study, end point of toxicity, and uncertainty factors used by EPA in the derivation of the RfD for MeHg are scientifically appropriate. Sensitive subpopulations should be considered.
Evaluate any new data not considered in the 1997 Mercury Study Report to Congress that could affect the adequacy of EPA's MeHg RfD for protecting human health.
Consider exposures in the environment relevant to evaluation of likely human exposures (especially to sensitive subpopulations and especially from consumption of fish that contain MeHg). The evaluation should focus on those elements of exposure relevant to the establishment of an appropriate RfD.
Identify data gaps and make recommendations for future research.
A reference dose is defined as an estimate of a daily exposure to the human population (including sensitive subpopulations) that is likely to be without a risk of adverse effects when experienced over a lifetime.