WHO Environmental Health Criteria: A brief update
by Dariusz Lezczynski, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 12 June 2016
At the BioEM2016, I had a brief discussion with Eric van Rongen, about the status of the Environmental Health Criteria (EHC). This is what I learned:
Task Group to evaluate science: recruitment is ongoing. The group will consist of some 25 – 30 experts. Process is slow because broader expertise is required as compared with IARC 2011, where only cancer was evaluated. The EHC will evaluate all possible health risks. The process is also slow because declarations of interest, submitted by the invited experts, need to be examined and approved by the legal office at the WHO. The first meeting of the EHC was planned for September 2016, but there might be a delay. If it happens, the whole process might be delayed and the EHC document might be published only in early 2017.
The draft document for the EHC, a review of the science, that will be the basis for the deliberations of the Task Group, is still being updated. The updating is in response to comments obtained from the public and in order to include the newest published studies (studies published after the draft was written). The draft review of science will be, thus, up to date.
As per current information, the NTP study will not be included in the EHC draft and, automatically (?), it will not be formally considered as a scientific evidence by the EHC Task Group. The group of scientists updating the EHC draft does not consider the NTP’s Draft Report as peer-reviewed publication. Peer-reviews included in the NTP Draft Report are not satisfactory for the EHC.
If it really happens, I think it is not correct approach, from the EHC, to exclude NTP study. It was published and, to all knowledgeable with the rules at the US NIH and at the US NIEHS, it is clear that this publication went through much stricter scientific review as compared with many peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals. Fact that the peer-reviews, published as part of the NTP Draft Report, are not always very supportive does not mean that the study is bad and should be excluded. We do not know the opinions of peer-reviewers of the vast majority of published studies. Fact that study was published in peer-reviewed journal does not automatically mean that the opinions of reviewers were good, these might have been just passable. It feels somewhat hypocritical to say that NTP study’s peer-reviews are worse than the peer-reviewed opinions of other studies that nobody has access to and because of it exclude the NTP Draft Report .
In my opinion, the NTP Draft Report should be considered, and critically evaluated, as any other peer-reviewed study included in the EHC.