April 22, 2011 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 2Comment

Earlier this month, in my post “CDC’s NIOSH says WHAT about asbestos???” I reported on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) new treatise on asbestos, and my dismay with the agency’s characterization of the mineral as a “potential occupational carcinogen.” NIOSH’s current intelligence bulletins are supposed to convey the most up-to-date scientific information on a hazard and risk of harm from exposure to it. All the leading scientific organizations across the globe, including the World Health Organization’s IARC and HHS’ National Toxicology Program, recognize all forms of asbestos as human carcinogen. The March 2011version of NIOSH’s report, the one that I thought was a bad April Fools’ joke, has been replaced with an April 2011 version. Consistently with the state of scientific knowledge about the health effects of exposure to all forms of asbestos, the corrected document notes:

“NIOSH has determined that exposure to asbestos fibers causes cancer and asbestosis in humans and recommends that exposures be reduced to the lowest feasible concentration.”

It goes on to say the document was revised:

“… to (1) correct an erroneous statement that NIOSH adopted the designation of asbestos as a ‘Potential Occupational Carcinogen’ in the 1970s; (2) more clearly indicate that NIOSH has determined that exposure to asbestos fibers causes cancer and asbestosis in humans; and (3) provide an updated discussion of the potency of chrysotile for causing mesothelioma.”

NIOSH director John Howard deserves credit for promptly addressing this error, and for adding a caveat (at page 36) to the document’s reference to the Berman and Crump risk assessment. This analysis, widely used in litigation by defenders of asbestos in litigation, and by consultants and trade associations before regulatory agencies considering action on asbestion (see here, here) has been rejected by other public health agencies, such as EPA.

2 thoughts on “CDC’s NIOSH corrects statement about asbestos, a known human carcinogen

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