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Subcommittees Examine Carcinogen Classification Process and Small Business

Washington, Apr 25 -

The House Small Business Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology today joined the Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight in holding a hearing to examine how the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program Report on Carcinogen classification process affects small businesses.

The Report on Carcinogens (RoC) is a Congressionally mandated, science-based, public health report that identifies substances that may pose a risk to people in the United States. The National Toxicology Program published the 12th RoC last year and is embarking on preparations for the 13th RoC.

“While the National Toxicology Program is preparing the 13th Report on Carcinogens, it is important that we have an open conversation about how the process could negatively affect small businesses,” said Small Business Subcommittee on Healthcare and Technology Chairwoman Renee Ellmers (R-NC). “When the government publishes scientific information that could have widespread negative consequence on small business owners, the government has the responsibility to ensure that the information is determined with a scientifically sound process.  It is extremely important that we protect Americans from harmful substances, but this can be done while also protecting our nation’s primary job creators from premature backlash and unnecessary burdens.”

“As a legislator, I am very concerned with protecting public health and safety,” said Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun, M.D. (R-GA).  “As a physician, I take this responsibility even more seriously.  When substances are found to be harmful, we should make every effort to minimize the public’s exposure.  We also have a responsibility to ensure that these determinations are appropriate, are not arbitrary or capricious, and are communicated correctly.”

For related hearing documents,
click here.

Notable Witness Quotes:

John E. Barker, Corporate Manager of Environmental Affairs, Safety and Loss Prevention at the Strongwell Corporation in Bristol, VA said, “…we are very concerned about the potential regulatory burden that could be placed on our operations should the RoC listing form the basis of regulatory changes. Changes to the regulations already in effect by OSHA and EPA could cause the cost of compliance to increase substantially. Further, focusing on a matter that should be of no concern will make it harder for employees to give full attention to the safety issues that are important.”

Richard B. Belzer, Ph.D., President of Regulatory Checkbook in Mount Vernon, VA said, “For the RoC to ever produce useful information about human carcinogens, the authorizing statute will have to be changed. Legalese will have to be replaced with the language of science. The NTP must be directed to stick to science, and its incentives to practice bureaucratic self-aggrandizement must be eliminated. Only then will it be possible for the RoC have any practical value for informing decisions.”

James S. Bus, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S., Director of External Technology, Toxicology and Environmental Research and Consulting at The Dow Chemical Company in Midland, MI said, “…the RoC process is almost entirely ad hoc and lacks explicit criteria needed to assure consistency and transparency. Second, the RoC process lacks adequate checks and balances, including peer review and addressing outside/conflicting data. Finally, the RoC fails to employ scientific best practices, relies on outdated approaches and has not adopted recent NAS recommendations.

In summary, the current RoC process falls well short of producing evidencebased listing decisions. I urge Congress to oversee a thorough assessment of the RoC – ideally through an NAS review – to ensure that any future RoC listings are evidencebased, provide accurate public health information and reflect the highest scientific standards in its processes, and to begin to determine the RoC's fundamental relevancy going forward. This will increase the public’s and industry’s confidence in the RoC’s listings and their application to scienceinformed decisionmaking.”

Bonnie Webster, Vice President of Monroe Industries, Inc. in Avon, NY said, “The RoC has hidden in the shadows, pretending only to be harmless input to public health agencies. It has been largely unsupervised by the Congress, unreachable by the courts, and not even carefully supervised by the senior officials in their respective agencies. Yet, its actions have every bit as much an impact as regulations, which in contrast are subject to the Administrative Procedure Act, are held accountable for responding to public comments, are scrutinized by the Congress, and can be challenged appropriately in Court.”

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