IARC accused of aligning with industry

Dr James Huff, who headed the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) chemical evaluation programme until 1980, has warned that the agency had lost its position as “the most authoritative and scientific source” on cancer risks “due to the increasing influence of those aligned with the industry point of view regarding chemicals and their inert hazards to public and occupational health.” He found representatives with industry sympathies or affiliations routinely outnumbered those aligned with public health at IARC evaluation meeting. In the decade from 1993, ratings for eight chemicals were upgraded, but 12 were downgraded. In the preceding decade, before industry asserted its influence on the decision making process, no IARC assessments were downgraded. It can take a concerted campaign to get action to prevent cancer risks, even when the evidence of harm is overwhelming. Huff noted in meetings discussing IARC monographs volumes 62 to 80, “in all but one of the Monographs meetings those aligned with industry ‘out-numbered’ those aligned with public health.” Huff was also a signatory to a parallel February 2002 letter to Gro Harlem Bruntland, director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) complaining about IARC’s perceived collusion with industry. IARC comes under the aegis of WHO.

Huff J. IARC monographs, industry influence, and upgrading, downgrading, and under-grading chemicals: A personal viewpoint. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, volume 8, number 3, pages 249-270, July/September 2002. Also see: Cancer in the system: Corporate disease infects the international cancer agency, Hazards, number 80, October-December 2002.

Letter to Dr Gro Harlem Bruntland, director-general, WHO, International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, volume 8, number 3, pages 279–280, 1 July 2002.

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