ACC calls for reform of IARC carcinogen classifications

American Chemistry Council launches initiative to promote credible, unbiased science as basis of public policy decisions.

January 25, 2017

2 Min Read
ACC calls for reform of IARC carcinogen classifications

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) launched the Campaign for Accuracy in Public Health Research (CAPHR), an initiative to promote credible, unbiased and transparent science as the basis of public policy decisions.

In particular, CAPHR will seek reform of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) Monographs Program, which evaluates the carcinogenic hazard of substances and behaviors. IARC’s Monographs Program suffers from persistent scientific and process deficiencies that result in public confusion and misinformed policy-making.

Those in agricultural circles are familiar with the harm caused by IARC’s classifications of meat and glyphosate as possible carcinogenics.

ACC said leading scientists have criticized the IARC Monographs Program for its lack of “transparency, minimal consideration of the weight of scientific evidence, misapplied conflict of interest policies and confusing communication of its monograph decisions. Rather than informing consumers of carcinogenic risks in realistic exposure scenarios, IARC considers only a substance’s hazard: whether the substance could cause cancer in humans under any circumstances, in most cases at exposure levels far beyond what is typical.”

“The IARC Monographs Program has been responsible for what ACC claimed as countless misleading headlines about the safety of the food we eat, the jobs we do and the products we use in our daily lives,” ACC president and chief executive officer Cal Dooley said. “By offering specific proposals for reform, the CAPHR hopes to play a constructive role in improving the IARC Monographs Program to ensure consumers, public health officials and regulators benefit from more credible and relevant information.”

The consequences of IARC’s monographs go beyond dubious and misleading news coverage; IARC’s decisions have a significant impact on U.S. public policy and marketplace deselection, ACC said. For example, California’s chemical labeling law, Proposition 65, uses IARC classifications to require warning labels on consumer products despite an often infinitesimal risk of developing cancer as a result of products’ proper use. IARC classifications have also been used by retailers as justification to phase out certain substances.

“Public policy must be based on a transparent, thorough assessment of the best available science,” Dooley continued. “Currently, IARC’s monographs do not meet this standard, though U.S. taxpayers foot the bill for over two-thirds of the international program’s budget.”

CAPHR will be supported by a new website, Twitter handle and Facebook page. The website,, includes fact sheets, infographics and relevant news stories that will better inform the public about the methodology and research behind IARC’s monographs and other public health studies. ACC said it hopes that this undertaking encourages a more transparent discussion of sensationalist studies and helps prevent confusion and subsequent misallocation of resources on important public health issues.

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