Investigation Underway for WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer

U.S. government officials opened an investigation of funding for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is facing criticism over its classification of carcinogens. Officials from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have agreed to provide an in-person briefing to the committee regarding its ongoing funding to the controversial agency. The committee has asked NIH to detail its standards for awarding grants and subsequently vetting recipients.

IARC classified coffee, mobile phones, processed meats, and glyphosate as potential carcinogens, which has prompted critics to argue that the agency is too quick to conclude that certain substances might cause cancer. These actions, they note, can lead to unnecessary health scares.

In a letter to NIH, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, described IARC as having “a record of controversy, retractions, and inconsistencies. IARC’s standards and determinations for classifying substances as carcinogenic … appear inconsistent with other scientific research.”

NIH’s grant database shows that IARC has received more than $1.2 million from them in 2016, and, since 1992, NIH has granted nearly $40 million in funding to IARC.