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 However, as an 11th hour bid in an attempt to assuage criticism and, arguably to cement into place flawed and outdated evidence evaluation procedures before the new IARC Director starts, the Monographs Program staff have scheduled an advisory group meeting for November 12-16,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 On one hand the Agency is following outdated rules to guide its evaluations, yet on the other is acknowledging its rules need to be updated and is seeking scientific experts to revise them,” said Cal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).
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