The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) often claims its carcinogenic assessment process, known as the Monographs Program, is transparent, primarily because it uses only publicly available studies. However, the independence of that research base comes into question when compared to the more diverse sources regulatory agencies use, including studies conducted by the regulated community as required by law.
According to Kathryn Guyton, Senior Toxicologist at the Monographs Program, IARC’s process is completely transparent and reproducible because, “We only use publicly available data….This is the cornerstone of the Monographs scientific procedures.”
IARC claims to be transparent, but it is not.
- IARC actually goes to great lengths to keep its Monographs process and the justifications for its conclusions a secret.
- For example, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) — a major funder of the Monographs Program —recently denied a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents related to Monograph 112. The request was sent to U.S. government workers who participated in the Monographs Program, and requested documents that would have been created after the Monograph was drafted, as well as correspondence between Working Group members and non-IARC participants. NIH denied the request in full, arguing that all such documents are not subject to U.S. transparency laws, because IARC claims the documents belong to them.
- In fact, IARC actually encourages Working Group members to resist records requests by withholding their records pertaining to the Monographs process.
- In addition, Monograph participants are required to sign a confidentiality agreement promising not to disclose information about IARC’s deliberations and conclusions.
- Even more alarming, in regards to Monograph 118 on welding fumes, IARC admits that the agency “has access to certain information and documentation […] which IARC/WHO considers to be proprietary to itself or the parties collaborating with it.” “Proprietary” is the key word here. The use of data exclusive to IARC blatantly contradicts the agency’s Monograph preamble, which states that IARC only sources publicly available data in its Monograph process: “With regard to epidemiological studies, cancer bioassays, and mechanistic and other relevant data, only reports that have been published or accepted for publication in the openly available scientific literature are reviewed.”
- IARC also does not require disclosure of experts who review their own work or that of their close colleagues. As such, this is now common practice. Between 2012 and 2015, 61 scientists worked on Monographs that cited their own research.