Uncommon but alarming man-made toxic episodes have occasioned regulation to ensure the safety of novel and commonly used substances and foremost to control agents that may cause cancer. However, the safety or harm of novel entities has no durable record of human use, and hence is virtually unknown. Compelled to act, regulators have chosen animal tests to forecast human cancer risks. To this end, animal data are filtered through a series of preconceived assumptions that are presumed to overcome a host of human/animal differences of biology, exposure, and statistics—differences that in reality are insurmountable. Asked for authoritative opinion, the National Academy of Sciences repeatedly found this regulatory approach without factual or scientific justification and, by implication, arbitrary and irrational. On these grounds, such a regulatory process appears vulnerable to scientific, legal, and constitutional challenges. Although it cannot provide credible assurance that an agent may be safe or harmful, the process has been a prime reason for an annual regulatory burden that exceeds the combined after-tax profits of all U.S. industrial activity. It is argued here that better use of national resources would come from a rational approach based on trade-off considerations, where a substance would be regulated depending on its socio-economic utility and on scientific evidence of proved relevance to human safety.
Author: Gio Batta Gori
Keywords: Gori, epidemiology, ethics, policy