House Considers Quashing Report on Carcinogens

August 22, 2012

For years, scientists at the National Toxicology Program have published the "Report on Carcinogens," which lists chemicals known to (or believed to) cause cancer. Now some House Republicans want to stop updating and publication of the report.

And not just any congressman. Denny Rehberg is chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor and Health and Human Services. He has near-total control over the annual appropriations bill which funds the Report on Carcinogens. And he wants to add a rider to this year's bill forbidding the spending of any funds on the report.

At the urging of some business groups, Rehberg and House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) wrote Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius August 1, 2012, expressing impatience that HHS had yet to follow a directive in last year's appropriations bill. A report attached to that bill had directed HHS to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct "peer review" of findings on formaldehyde and styrene in the most recent Report on Carcinogens (the 12th Report on Carcinogens, published June 10, 2011). That report, based on peer-reviewed literature, then undergoes multiple layers of peer review itself. HHS has begun, but not concluded, the process of contracting with NAS to do the further review. Some observers view Rehberg's potential rider as a way of pressuring HHS and NAS to expedite the review.

Another business group, the American Sustainable Business Council, has opposed Rehberg's rider.

Neither the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee nor the full Appropriations Committee has yet marked up a bill for fiscal 2013.