WHO Environmental Health Criteria: A brief update

At the BioEM2016, I had a brief discussion with Eric van Rongen, about the status of the Environmental Health Criteria (EHC). This is what I learned:

Task Group to evaluate science: recruitment is ongoing. The group will consist of some 25 – 30 experts. Process is slow because broader expertise is required as compared with IARC 2011, where only cancer was evaluated. The EHC will evaluate all possible health risks. The process is also slow because declarations of interest, submitted by the invited experts, need to be examined and approved by the legal office at the WHO. The first meeting of the EHC was planned for September 2016, but there might be a delay. If it happens, the whole process might be delayed and the EHC document might be published only in early 2017.

The draft document for the EHC, a review of the science, that will be the basis for the deliberations of the Task Group, is still being updated. The updating is in response to comments obtained from the public and in order to include the newest published studies (studies published after the draft was written). The draft review of science will be, thus, up to date.

As per current information, the NTP study will not be included in the EHC draft and, automatically (?), it will not be formally considered as a scientific evidence by the EHC Task Group. The group of scientists updating the EHC draft does not consider the NTP’s Draft Report as peer-reviewed publication. Peer-reviews included in the NTP Draft Report are not satisfactory for the EHC.

If it really happens, I think it is not correct approach, from the EHC, to exclude NTP study. It was published and, to all knowledgeable with the rules at the US NIH and at the US NIEHS, it is clear that this publication went through much stricter scientific review as compared with many peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals. Fact that the peer-reviews, published as part of the NTP Draft Report, are not always very supportive does not mean that the study is bad and should be excluded. We do not know the opinions of peer-reviewers of the vast majority of published studies. Fact that study was published in peer-reviewed journal does not automatically mean that the opinions of reviewers were good, these might have been just passable. It feels somewhat hypocritical to say that NTP study’s peer-reviews are worse than the peer-reviewed opinions of other studies that nobody has access to and because of it exclude the NTP Draft Report .

In my opinion, the NTP Draft Report should be considered, and critically evaluated, as any other peer-reviewed study included in the EHC.


6 thoughts on “WHO Environmental Health Criteria: A brief update

  1. Results on brain glioma and heart schwannoma in rat are final and will not change, according to Butcher and Wyde.

  2. The NTP study should be evaluated for inclusion in the EHC if it meets the pre-established inclusion criteria. If it doesn’t meet the criteria, it should not be included. The rules should be applied equally to all potential evidence. If the NTP rat study in its present form is as compelling and conclusive as some believe, it must be ready to submit immediately to a journal. It will be reviewed by independant peer-reviewers and published promply. Then it can take it’s proper place in the body of science. Problem solved!

    Or, perhaps the situation is as Dr. John Bucher the Associate Director of the National Toxicology Program stated: “The results of our studies are far from definitive at this point.”

  3. Yes, Henrik. All possible health risks… It does not mean that all possible will be proven… but it will be evaluated. It is seen also from the EHC draft review…

  4. Are you sure Mr. van Rongen said the EHC will “evaluate all *possible* health risks” and not just *proven* risks? (remember SCENIHR 2015 scandal!). And excluding the NTP data is just irresponsible, given that the peer-reviewers comments and the NTPs responses to those have been published. What more do they want?

  5. OK! So we might conclude that EHC didn’t like the NTP results?

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