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Policy

Chemical trade group attacks cancer research agency

Web-based campaign questions credibility of World Health Organization agency’s cancer monographs

by Marc S. Reisch
February 10, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 7

The American Chemistry Council, the U.S. chemical industry’s main trade group, has launched the Campaign for Accuracy in Public Health Research to attack the credibility of reports on chemicals from the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The trade group claims that the agency, which operates under the World Health Organization, suffers from persistent scientific and process deficiencies that result in public confusion and misinformed policy-making. The IARC counters that the charges are wrong and misleading.

The report, or monograph, that ACC most criticizes is the one concluding that the herbicide glyphosate, invented by Monsanto, is a probable carcinogen. But the group is also critical of IARC’s carcinogenic labeling of other chemicals. Those determinations are used, for instance, to place warnings on consumer products under California’s Proposition 65, “despite an often infinitesimal risk of developing cancer as a result of products’ proper use,” ACC says.

“The IARC Monographs Program has been responsible for countless misleading headlines about the safety of the food we eat, the jobs we do, and the products we use in our daily lives,” says ACC CEO Cal Dooley. The campaign’s website also calls out IARC’s findings that red meat and cell phone radio frequencies are carcinogenic. It says the monograph program lacks transparency and has conflicts of interest.

An IARC spokesperson tells C&EN that the ACC campaign is full of misrepresentations and inaccuracies that are reminiscent of strategies used years ago by tobacco companies to cast doubt on scientific findings about the dangers of cigarette smoking.

“Unsurprisingly, the ACC, as a chemical industry trade association whose members include Monsanto, is defending its vested interests through this action,” the IARC spokesperson adds.

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