NIH News Release
National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences

Monday, December 21, 1998
Contact: Bill Grigg
(301) 402-3378

Final Comments Sought on Listing Alcoholic Drinks,
Second-Hand Smoke in Federal List of Causes of Cancer

The National Toxicology Program today solicited final, written public comments over the next 60 days on the proposed listing of alcoholic beverage consumption and environmental tobacco smoke as "known" causes of human cancer in the federal government's Ninth Report on Carcinogens to be published next year.

The Federal Register notice seeking comment said both exposure circumstances have had three scientific reviews B one by scientists of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the next by an interagency group* of federal scientists and the third by a board largely made up of non-government scientists. All overwhelmingly agreed the exposure circumstances should be listed as "known human carcinogens."

However, participants in the reviews emphasized that the evidence that alcoholic beverages cause cancer is most clearly established in heavy users and alcoholics, more so than in moderate or occasional users. Studies show the risk of mouth, larynx, pharynx and esophagus cancers is greatest among people who both drink and smoke.

Some scientists in the final board review also said they viewed the risk from environmental or second-hand smoke as slight, except perhaps in occupations or exposure circumstances where exposure to cigar, cigarette and/or pipe smoking is great.

The public can also comment on:

NTP is headquartered at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a part of the National Institutes of Health. Both are in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., directs both NTP and NIEHS.

Comments should be addressed to Dr. C.W. Jameson, NTP Report on Carcinogens, 79 Alexander Drive, Room 3217, PO Box 12233, Research Triangle Park, N.C. 27709.

Congress mandates the preparations of the reports, the first of which was published in 1980, to inform the public and as a check on whether legislative or regulatory action is needed to protect the public.

Following the comment period, a final draft will be prepared for review by NIEHS/NTP Director Kenneth Olden and, finally, by Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala. The publication is sent as a report to Congress and is available to the public.

*The interagency group includes scientists from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, National Center for Toxicological Research, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, National Library of Medicine and NIEHS.