US industry, cancer society slam White House report on chemicals

07 May 2010 19:55  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US industry officials on Friday joined the American Cancer Society (ACS) in criticism of a White House report that blamed cancer largely on chemicals and inadequate federal regulation of substances in commerce.

Bill Allmond, vice president for government relations at the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), said the president’s cancer panel report apparently was drawn up without any input from the chemicals sector - although the study claimed to have consulted manufacturers.

Scott Jensen, a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council (ACC), also was critical of what he said was an apparent lack of balance in the White House panel’s study.

Both Allmond and Jensen cited comments by Michael Thun, a physician and vice president emeritus for epidemiology and surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, who characterised some of the White House panel’s findings as unfortunate, unbalanced and provocative.

The report issued on Thursday by the president’s cancer panel, titled Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk, called for a broad new federal chemicals controls programme based on the precautionary principle, saying that suspect chemicals should be banned even if there were no clear proof that they harmed human health.

Thun, quoted on the ACS Web site, said: “Unfortunately, the perspective of the report is unbalanced by its implication that pollution is the major cause of cancer, and by its dismissal of cancer prevention efforts aimed at the major known causes of cancer”, such as tobacco and alcohol use, obesity, hormones, infections and sunlight.

“The report is most provocative when it restates hypotheses as if they were established facts,” Thun said.

“For example, its conclusion that ‘the true burden of environmentally (ie pollution) induced cancer has been grossly underestimated’ does not represent scientific consensus,” Thun said, adding: “Rather, it reflects one side of a scientific debate that has continued for almost 30 years.”

ACC’s Jensen said that the council “supports the comments of the American Cancer Society that express concern about the lack of balance in the report, as it apparently underemphasises prevention efforts - the type of healthier living that is enabled by the products of chemistry”.

He said the council believed that existing laws governing chemicals in commerce have been protective of human health and the environment, although the chemicals trade group “strongly supports improvements that reflect advances in science over the past few decades”.

SOCMA’s Allmond said that while the president’s cancer panel rightfully represented one point of view as Congress works to modernise the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the White House group’s findings could not be viewed “as the leading scientific source or opinion”.

Allmond also was critical of source materials and authorities used by the panel in compiling its report.

“We’re concerned that the report claims to be based on input from industry, yet the report’s list of participating entities contradicts this claim,” he said.

“The list of contributors includes a narrow group of academics and advocates of strict government regulation in this area, which seems to undermine the credibility of it being inclusive,” Allmond said.

The cancer panel had claimed in its report that it had taken testimony from 45 invited experts from academia, government, advocacy groups and industry.

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