Disinfected Water, Fuel Additives, Nanotubes Should Be High IARC Priorities, Advisers Say

By Pat Rizzuto  

July 3 — Advisers to the International Agency for Research on Cancer have recommended the agency evaluate dozens of chemicals, pesticides, food contact substances and occupational situations for their potential to cause cancer in people.

IARC recently published the recommendations its advisory group made at a meeting in April.

IARC's conclusions about carcinogenicity are used around the world as government agencies make regulatory decisions. For example, California uses IARC's conclusions to help determine whether businesses must provide hazard warnings for specific chemicals in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Proposition 65.

Upcoming Meeting on Carbon Nanotubes

IARC is scheduled to evaluate carbon nanotubes, one category of chemicals on its priorities list, Sept. 30 to Oct. 7.

The importance of these and other compounds IARC will evaluate is illustrated by information the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has provided.

“Carbon nanotubes and nanofibers are some of the most promising materials to result from nanotechnology,” NIOSH wrote in Current Intelligence Bulletin 65. “Carbon nanotubes and nanofibers are commercially used in a variety of applications. These include electronics, lithium-ion batteries, solar cells, super capacitors, thermoplastics, polymer composites, coatings, adhesives, biosensors, enhanced electron/scanning microscopy imaging techniques, and inks. They are also used in pharmaceutical/biomedical devices for bone grafting, tissue repair, drug delivery, and medical diagnostics,” NIOSH wrote. The introduction of these materials and products using them into commerce has increased greatly in the last decade, it wrote.

Recommended Priorities

Other chemicals, pesticides, food contact substances and occupational situations the advisers recommended IARC evaluate included:

  •  disinfected water used for drinking, showering, bathing or swimming;
  •  the fuel additives ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE), methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and tert-butyl alcohol;
  •  bisphenol A (BPA), which is widely used in food can epoxy resins and in plastics;
  •  tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), a bisphenol A derivative that is widely used as a flame retardant;
  •  sedentary work;
  •  shiftwork; and
  •  occupational exposure to pesticides. 
  • Systematic Review

    IARC's advisers offered recommendations about other topics they discussed in April.

    For example, they encouraged the international agency, which is part of the World Health Organization, to continue exploring the use of systematic review.

    Systematic review consists of distinct, consecutive steps to evaluate scientific studies and determine whether information they contain should be included in an assessment.

    Those steps could include identifying the key words and procedures used to search scientific literature; establishing criteria to determine whether scientific studies are relevant for inclusion; assessing study quality; developing procedures to extract data from studies; synthesizing data from human, animal and other sources; and, finally, integrating those diverse sources of information or “evidence streams” to reach conclusions about the hazards posed by a chemical, group of chemicals or exposure scenario.

    The U.S. National Toxicology Program and Environmental Protection Agency briefed the IARC advisers about their efforts to develop ways to conduct systematic reviews.

    IARC's advisers encouraged the international agency to implement systematic-review tools as appropriate for its work.

    “Standardizing literature searches and creating databases of information on study designs and results could increase transparency and rigor. These can also serve as a starting point for subsequent updates or be shared across health agencies,” the advisors' recommendations said.

    To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at prizzuto@bna.com

    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

    The recommended priorities for IARC are available at http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Publications/internrep/14-002.pdf.