Congress is Sniffing Out the Activists in the Hen House

When advocacy groups can’t get their way, they often manipulate science to convince the public to listen to them. After all, according to Pew Research Center, scientists are by far the most trusted individuals. 45 percent of Americans have “a great deal” of confidence in scientists — who better to carry the message?

Few organizations have manipulated science for advocacy as much as the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC. And this time, Congress is stepping in to reign in the lunacy.

IARC’s “monographs,” which review research to determine whether chemicals are capable of causing cancer, were initially just supposed to serve as a guide to identify potential hazards for further study. Since IARC’s job description is limited to identification, the monographs don’t include any context for exposure. That’s how IARC can give wood dust the same cancer ranking as the ionizing radiation of a nuclear blast.

In recent years, activists within the agency have turned IARC’s mission upside down.

Known radical activists like Chris Portier — who worked for Environmental Defense Fund and a French organization convinced that cell phones cause brain cancer — is one of them. Environmental Defense Fund rakes in more than $130 million each year by promoting a global fear of chemicals. But because Dr. Protier isn’t a private-sector scientists, that particularly large conflict of interest was paid no mind when he served as IARC’s only “invited specialist” to evaluate the world’s most popular weed killer, glyphosate.

And the lead scientist who ultimately handed down IARC’s cancer ruling on glyphosate? He deliberately hid data supporting the weed killer’s safety from his fellow scientists. Under oath, Dr. Aaron Blair admitted that his omissions likely altered the course of glyphosate’s review. In a previous chairmanship, Dr. Blair also identified working the night shift as a possible carcinogen. It would make sense if that night shift were spent cleaning up after a nuclear meltdown, Dr. Blair’s evaluation applied to the far more mundane work of restaurant and retail employees, and doctors and nurses.

Instead of being used to direct research, these activists in the hen house are pitching monographs as the end-all be-all for carcinogens. They still don’t report risk, so businesses which expose consumers to wood dust (think: Home Depot, Lowes) are scrambling to label their products as carcinogens before they get sued under California’s Prop 65, which is automatically populated by IARC “carcinogens.” Businesses have lost more than $196 million settling frivolous lawsuits from Prop 65 since 2000.

In fact, IARC is responsible for many cancer warnings on products sold in California – even on items as innocuous as flip flops and golf bags. It’s a huge problem that American businesses are losing millions of dollars due to poor quality research being peddled as the ultimate source of cancer knowledge. It’s an even larger problem that IARC has received more than $48 million in taxpayer funding from the National Institutes of Health. More than $22 million of that amount went directly to the monographs program.

Just this week, the House Committee on Science and its Subcommittee on Environment sent a letter to IARC informing the agency that it will likely have to testify about how it conducts its cancer reviews. The Congressional committees also requested all correspondence between IARC and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Congressional inquiry is intended “to ensure scientific integrity and an honest use of taxpayer dollars,” but we’ll wager that it will find just the opposite.

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