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Monday, October 27, 1997, 12:00 a.m. EDT
New Scientific Review of Saccharin to Be Discussed As Board Reviews Proposed Listings for 9th Report on Carcinogens
A Subcommittee of the National Toxicology Program's Board of Scientific Counselors will review data at its Oct.30 and 31 public meeting that could result in a recommendation to "de-list" saccharin from the federal government's official report of cancer-causing substances, The Report on Carcinogens, ninth edition, and could add ultraviolet radiation, smokeless tobacco (such as snuff and chewing tobacco), tobacco smoke as an entity, all in the strongest category of "known" human carcinogen, and other drugs and chemicals.
The NTP is headquartered at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and the board will meet in public meetings there in the conference center, building 101, at 111 Alexander Drive. The recommendations of two scientific reviews will become public at that time.
The board is influential but not the final word. It makes recommendations to NTP Director Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., who in turn makes recommendations to Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala.
The strongest category in the listings is "known" human carcinogen. Saccharin has, since 1981, been in a lesser category as "anticipated" to be a carcinogen (or "likely to be") based on evidence that included testing in animals. The Calorie Control Council, an industry group, petitioned for saccharin to be de-listed under revised criteria and review procedures announced by the Department of Health and Human Services last year. The criteria were broadened to allow consideration of such factors as mechanisms of action as well as the standard two-year rodent tests, and also set up a mechanism for petitioning to have a substance removed. Under a Congressional mandate, the HHS Secretary is required to submit to Congress a Report on Carcinogens. The Secretary has delegated responsibility for preparing the report on the NTP.
In July, in announcing plans for the ninth such report, NTP said that it planned to review saccharin for de-listing and to review 13 substances or categories of substances that have been nominated for review as candidates for listing.
Besides tobacco smoke, smokeless tobacco and UV radiation, the substances planned for review are:
- Benzidine-based dyes-a class of more than 250 dyes primarily used to dye textiles, leather and paper;
- Chloroprene, used to make industrial rubber products and as a component of adhesives in food packaging;
- Phenolphthalein, an ingredient in some nonprescription laxatives which a study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences already has caused the Food and Drug Administration to review its use as a nonprescription drug;
- Inorganic acid mists containing Sulfuric acid, generated in refining petroleum, in ore concentration and in removing impurities from iron, steel and other metals;
- Tetrafluoroethylene, which is used in making Teflon and was used as a propellant in food and cosmetic aerosols;
- Trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent for vapor degreasing and cold cleaning fabricated metal parts. It has also been used as a carrier in insecticides and fungicides-and was once commonly used to decaffeinate coffee but has been replaced by a water process;
- Tamoxifen, a drug used in the palliative treatment of breast cancer and in preventing recurrence. (As with many cancer drugs, the labeling already reflects studies indicating the drug may sometimes also cause cancer in animals or humans.)
In addition, several already listed substances would be reviewed as candidates to move from "anticipated" human carcinogens to the stronger category of "known" human carcinogens:
- Butadiene, a chemical used in making synthetic rubber;
- Cadmium and cadmium compounds, used in batteries, alloys, coating and plating, plastic and synthetic products;
- Dioxin, or tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), formed as an impurity or byproduct in herbicide manufacture, as in the Agent Orange sprayed by the U.S. military to defoliate parts of Vietnam, and during incineration and in several industrial processes.
NIEHS Booklet Spells Out Environmental Diseases from A to Z
Youngsters may scoff at parental advice to wear a warm coat or put on sunscreen, but most diseases really are caused, in part, by the environment we live in. Judith Stern, professor of nutrition and internal medicine at the University of California at Davis, sums it up this way: "Genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger."
To illustrate this, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health, has produced a colorful booklet, Environmental Diseases From A to Z (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/index.cfm). It takes the reader on an illustrated journey through the alphabet, covering a wide range of environmentally-induced illnesses from asthma to zinc deficiency.
"The book gives readers some idea of the great diversity of environmental agents one may be exposed to, and the many, many diseases that result," NIEHS Director Kenneth Olden said. "Some of these, like cancer and birth defects, are very familiar, while others, such as yusho poisoning and xeroderma, will be new to most readers.
The booklet's simple language makes it an appropriate resource for a wide variety of audiences, from school children to adults, who want to learn more about how these diseases affect our daily lives. It even includes suggestions on how the illnesses can be treated or prevented!
A free copy is available by writing to:
NIEHS Office of Communications
P.O. Box 12233
Research Triangle Park, N.C. 27709
Attn: John Peterson, Mail Drop K3-16
or calling John Peterson at (919) 541-7860
Email requests should be directed to email@example.com. Teachers may receive larger quantities.
About the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS): NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health and is part of the National Institutes of Health. For more information on NIEHS or environmental health topics, visit www.niehs.nih.gov or subscribe to a news list.
About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
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