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CAPHR Coalition Urges WHO to Delay Preamble Advisory Group until New IARC Director Seated

WASHINGTON (April 30, 2018) – The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has announced the reclassification of styrene, an essential building block chemistry for dozens of everyday plastic materials, as a 2A “probable carcinogen.” The change is attributed to revisions made in 2006 to IARC’s Monographs Preamble, or “rulebook” for developing IARC Monographs. However the 2006 changes fall well short of meeting current scientific standards of transparency and objectivity, and instead foster ad hoc procedures for evaluating and integrating mechanistic evidence.

The announcement of styrene’s reclassification comes at a time when the IARC Monographs Program is at a crossroads. The IARC Governing Council is expected within weeks to appoint a new Director to assume leadership in January 2019. However, as an 11th hour bid in an attempt to assuage criticism and, arguably to cement into place flawed and outdated evidence evaluation procedures before the new IARC Director starts, the Monographs Program staff have scheduled an advisory group meeting for November 12-16, 2018 to recommend updates to the Preamble.

“IARC’s decision to reclassify the cancer hazard of styrene is troubling. On one hand the Agency is following outdated rules to guide its evaluations, yet on the other is acknowledging its rules need to be updated and is seeking scientific experts to revise them,” said Cal Dooley, President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council (ACC). “This self-contradictory behavior comes at a time when the leadership of the Agency is about to change. The Campaign for Accuracy in Public Research (CAPHR) Coalition urges WHO as well as the IARC Governing Council to first elect a new Director, and then, have the new Director, as his or her highest priority, tackle modernizing the IARC Monographs Program, including improving the Preamble. The incumbent IARC Director and Monographs Program staff are too vested in the status quo to be counted on to implement the necessary improvements.”

IARC’s Monographs Program has come under fire by congressional lawmakers for its lack of transparency, clear conflicts of interest and dated methodologies for assessing cancer hazards. IARC’s latest classification of styrene, which is based on the same outdated processes that the House Science Committee has recently called into question, shows it’s ‘business as usual’ at IARC and nothing has changed to bring its Monographs Program into the 21st century.

“A new IARC Director offers both WHO and IARC governing bodies the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to reform, modernizing their scientific practices, and renewing public confidence in the IARC Monographs Program,” continued Dooley. “Given the needs for greater transparency and objectivity and for adoption of up-to-date scientifically robust weight of the evidence integration procedures, it is critical a new IARC Director be in place before the advisory group meets to revise the Preamble.”

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