WASHINGTON (January 25, 2017) – The American Chemistry Council (ACC) today 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.
Leading scientists have criticized IARC’s 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 countless misleading headlines about the safety of the food we eat, the jobs we do and the products we use in our daily lives,” said Cal Dooley, ACC President and CEO. “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. 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.”
The Campaign will be supported by a new website and Twitter handle. The website, campaignforaccuracyinpublichealthresearch.com, 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 hopes that this undertaking encourages a more transparent discussion of sensationalist studies and helps to prevent confusion and subsequent misallocation of resources on important public health issues.