WHO’s IARC cancer agency under fire for ‘underplaying’ risks of benzene

| | March 7, 2018

Emails from its own scientists show the International Agency for Research on Cancer failed to comprehensively review evidence on human exposure to the cancer-causing chemical benzene. The agency has not remedied matters, despite its findings being used in U.S. court cases and relied upon around the world.

[Chemical engineer Melvyn] Kopstein claims IARC did not consider important evidence that exposure to the chemical is higher than IARC suggests: In other words, he argues, the agency may have underplayed potential cancer risks.

The disclosures are significant because they give rare insight into IARC’s methods. The agency does not publish details of how it makes its assessments and forbids observers invited to its meetings from talking publicly about the proceedings.

Millions of workers around the world – from car mechanics to cabinet makers to shoemakers, print workers and painters – use benzene-containing products such as adhesives, solvents and cleaning agents, sometimes in poorly-ventilated factories or workshops. In the United States, some workers are pursuing personal injury lawsuits claiming serious harm from benzene.

IARC’s monographs – scientific reviews that classify human carcinogenic hazards – are cited by governments, courts and regulators worldwide as the reference “bible” of what causes, probably causes, and possibly causes cancer in people.

IARC told Reuters it and its working group members “stand fully behind the scientific integrity of the process and the evaluations” of the 2017 benzene review.

Read full, original post: WHO cancer agency “left out key findings” in benzene review

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