International Agency for Research on Cancer asked to respond to concerns over its collaboration with asbestos promoters

Tue, Feb 5, 2013


Dr Christopher Wild

Director, International Agency for Research on Cancer

World Health Organization

February 4, 2012

Dear Dr. Wild:

On behalf of Dr. Lemen, Dr. Frank and Dr. Castleman and the other signers, I am writing to say that we are disappointed and concerned that we have received no response to the urgent letter that we sent to you on December 13, 2012 (attached).

In the letter, signed by more than two dozen prominent scientists and civil society organisations around the world, we raised a number of serious concerns relating to recent conduct by IARC, which, in our view, brings IARC’s reputation and integrity into question. We documented our concerns and made a number of specific requests to you.

Attached is an article published in The Lancet regarding the concerns that have been submitted to IARC by scientists and civil society organisations.

We ask that you give these concerns the serious attention they warrant and take appropriate action. We ask that you respond to the specific requests contained in our letter of December 13, which we have copied below for your convenience:


WHO Director General Margaret Chan made a correct and ethical decision in withdrawing WHO collaborating centre status from the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences’ Institute of Occupational Health in order to protect the integrity of the WHO.

We call on IARC to make a similar decision to withdraw its collaboration with the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences in order to protect the integrity of IARC.

As was requested in the letter sent to Director General Margaret Chan by numerous scientists and health defenders around the world on November 19, 2012, we would like to know how the above study is being funded and whether the IARC Ethics Committee has approved the involvement of IARC.

We understand that a scientific review committee has been set up for this research project. Further to this, we request complete disclosure about the composition of any scientific committee involved and of any ethics reviews done to date.

We request that you, as IARC director, confirm that IARC agrees with WHO and ILO that the use of all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos, should end and that international trade in chrysotile asbestos which does take place among countries that have not banned its use should be governed by strict adherence to the Prior Informed Consent requirements of the Rotterdam Convention.

We request that IARC discontinue any collaboration with the Russian promoters of asbestos or with institutes that have been cut off by WHO as collaborating centers. WHO should freshly examine this situation from the ethical standpoint before any further work on this collaboration is allowed to proceed at IARC.

We urgently await your response to these grave concerns regarding IARC’s reputation and integrity.

We look forward to receiving a detailed and meaningful reply without further delay.


Kathleen Ruff. Co-coordinator, Rotterdam Convention Alliance (ROCA)

Copy to:

Margaret Chan, Director General, WHO

Dr. Eduardo Seleiro, IARC Ethics Committee

Dr. Abha Saxena, WHO Research Ethics Committee


– Urgent letter to IARC, December 13, 2012

IARC in the dock over ties with asbestos industry, The Lancet, February 2, 2013


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