CAPHR Coalition Partner Spotlight
Bob Masterson, President and CEO of The Chemistry Industry Association of Canada
The Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) is the voice of Canada’s chemistry industry. CIAC represents the interests of Canada’s leading chemistry companies – from petrochemical, inorganic and specialty chemical producers, to bio-based manufacturers and chemistry-related technology and R&D companies. Through comprehensive analytics and scientific review processes, CIAC is renowned for not only its commitment to its member organizations, but also the field of science itself.
Bob Masterson, the president and CEO of CIAC, has spent a majority of his career advocating for the chemistry industry, especially regarding sustainability initiatives. Bob was formerly CIAC’s Vice President of Responsible Care®, the industry’s globally recognized sustainability initiative. Under his leadership, Responsible Care enacted a new set of sustainability principles and guidelines for Canada’s chemistry industry. He was also previously Director of Regulatory Affairs with the Cement Association of Canada, and he spent 15 years as a consultant on environment and sustainability issues in many industry sectors including forest products, electricity, cement, mining and energy.
We talked to Bob about Canada’s approach to assessing risks, IARC’s flawed Monographs Program, and the negative impact that IARC’s hazard-based carcinogen assessments have on Canadian businesses and the public at large. Here’s what he had to say:
1. Cancer hazard assessments conducted by IARC’s Monographs Program are consistently a source of controversy. The fact that Canada conducts thorough risk-based assessments to assess cancer hazards, while IARC performs a limited assessment of cancer hazard, often causes confusion for the public due to the inherent contradictions. What are the effects that these contradictions have on Canadian businesses and citizens?
It contributes to undermining the public trust in both industry and the regulator. Neither media nor citizens pay much attention to science- and evidence-based processes that conclude a particular substance or activity poses little to no risk. On the other hand, both the media and public do pay attention to IARC conclusions. They wonder why industry and government haven’t warned them of the supposed dangers of the substance or activity in question.
This leaves Canadian industry and government in the unenviable position of defending decisions taken through Canada’s own open, transparent, science- and risk-based decision making processes that take into account actual environmental and human health exposures.
IARC Monographs, much like the California Prop 65 labelling requirements also have an undesired outcome in that, over time, they desensitize the public to those instances where real risks from substances and activities might arise. When everything is labelled as a carcinogen, the public ultimately discounts the value of that information and tends to ignore it, even if real risks might actually be present.
2. Methodologies employed by IARC’s Monographs Program are often at odds with other reputable scientific agencies as well as government regulatory bodies. Do you think that governments like Canada should take IARC’s findings into account?
Absolutely, IARC findings provide useful information about potential hazards associated with different activities and substances. As with any science-based evidence, those findings need to be part of the process. It’s just as important to understand though that they are a component of and one input into a process.
For instance, there are numerous examples of substance assessments under Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan where government scientists and regulators concluded that the exposure levels involved in IARC determinations were not present in Canada and therefore, while in theory the substance may possess certain hazard characteristics, in practice there is no risk to the public or environment from their continued use.
3. Do you think that IARC’s Monographs Program should switch to conducting risk-based assessments of substances or at least incorporate these methodologies into its existing review structure?
Moving to a risk basis would be helpful, but would not address the underlying issues.
The issues with the IARC monograph process could be more readily addressed by ensuring a transparent, weight of evidence process utilizing all relevant studies and data is put in place. Without those reforms first, we would continue having IARC outcomes that would not be supported by industry and governments which do favor a risk-based approach, such as the Government of Canada.
4. What other aspects of IARC’s Monographs Program do you think need to be reformed? What is your stance on the transparency issues surrounding IARC’s carcinogen evaluations? (see number 3)
We believe the IARC process should provide open, transparent and publicly-available opportunities to review draft conclusions and allow stakeholders to introduce relevant information and studies, which may have been overlooked when formulating the draft assessment. Once that opportunity has been provided and any additional information considered, a final monograph could then be published.
5. Do you think the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) would be receptive to these ideas? Do you see CIAC working with PHAC in the future to address these concerns?
We believe the government of Canada shares some of the same concerns with respect to the IARC process which we have. We have met with officials to provide our advice on how the IARC monograph process could be adjusted. We have encouraged them to utilize Canada’s status as a leading proponent of effective, science- and risk-based approaches to chemicals management to call attention to current shortcomings and to promote improved delivery of IARC Monographs.