OMAHA (DTN) -- EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told a House committee Wednesday that agency employees played no major role in drafting the International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) March 2015 conclusion that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans."
However, an IARC list of participants and emails obtained by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee appear to indicate U.S. Environmental Protection Agency employees were involved in the drafting of the assessment to some degree.
In addition, committee members questioned McCarthy on the timing of the retirement of the head of the EPA's Cancer Assessment Research Committee, which concluded in an October 2015 final assessment inadvertently posted to the EPA website April 29 and pulled May 2 that there likely is no cancer link to glyphosate.
The House committee's investigation focuses not only on the inadvertent release of the EPA's report, but whether there was any connection between the EPA's analysis and conclusions reached by the IARC.
One email presented to McCarthy by the House committee Wednesday shows EPA personnel communicating with the IARC's Kathryn Guyton following the completion of the IARC assessment last year. Guyton is a former EPA employee who now works for IARC.
In one email, EPA scientists Matthew Martin and Peter Egeghy are on a list of recipients that Guyton thanks for their involvement in the process.
"Note that, in our opinion, the scientific support and merit for the evaluation is not a matter to be decided by a 'debate' in the media," Guyton wrote in the email. "In fact, the scientific part of the 'debate' has ended. A decision has already been taken by you, the international working group of top world experts screened for conflict of interest, based on a comprehensive review of the available scientific evidence."
The committee questioned McCarthy about another email from Frank Le Curieux, member of the European Chemicals Agency and IARC participant, to five individuals including Martin. In the email, Le Curieux said they made "quite a nice team" and that it "was a real pleasure to meet and work" with them."
The committee requested transcribed interviews with EPA officials Charles Smith, acting deputy director, Office of Pesticide Programs, Heath Effects Division; Matthew Martin, Office of Research and Development, National Center for Computational Toxicology; Peter Egeghy, Office of Research and Development; Jesudosh Rowland, now-retired deputy director, Office of Pesticide Programs, Health Effects Division.
The employees did not respond to DTN's request for comment last week. However, last week, committee aides told DTN the agency has not yet agreed to allow the committee to interview the employees. In addition, the committee still is waiting for the agency to file a documents request.
McCarthy told the committee Wednesday the CARC assessment was not final and a contractor erroneously posted the report on April 29. It was pulled from the EPA website May 2. McCarthy said the agency will release the final assessment in the fall as a result of the concern raised about the agency's intent.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., asked McCarthy whether EPA employees were involved in the IARC draft.
"Actually, nobody was involved in the question of the carcinogenicity of glyphosate," McCarthy said. "We had three EPA employees. One was actually there as an observer, he did not partake... There were the other two, one was participating in information relative to exposure, was not relative to the carcinogenicity."
Loudermilk asked, "No one participated in the work?"
McCarthy responded, "The other one had to do with some of the (toxicology) information and how we helped them categorize it."
Loudermilk replied, "OK, well your staff did indicate to us that Matthew Martin participated in the IARC conference but did not participate in the glyphosate review."
According to an IARC list of participants, Martin was in attendance and Egeghy was unable to attend the conference in Lyon, France, but is listed as one of the authors in the glyphosate review, http://monographs.iarc.fr/….
When questioned about Egeghy's involvement in the IARC report, McCarthy responded, "He actually helped to draft and review portions of the human exposure. There were a number of pesticides being looked at, at the same time. It really had nothing to do with its carcinogenicity. He looked at how it was used in that context.
"I can go back and look, but I have asked a number of times and my understanding is that none of these individuals were there in the EPA capacity to participate in the issue of carcinogenicity."
IARC's monograph includes the conclusion that glyphosate should be listed as a probable carcinogen.
As for Martin's involvement, McCarthy said, "It says Mr. Martin was a computational toxicologist. He wasn't involved in the IARC review for glyphosate, but he did participate in the IARC conference on other matters. We have no toxicological data on glyphosate, so he couldn't have contributed to the carcinogenicity issue."
EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT QUESTIONED
In addition, committee members questioned the timing of the retirement of Jesudosh Rowland, the deputy director of the Office of Pesticide Programs in the Health Effects Division. Rowland was also the chair of the CARC. Rowland was listed on the IARC list as an "invited specialist."
Rowland retired within weeks following the removal of the CARC assessment from the EPA website May 2.
Loudermilk asked McCarthy whether Rowland's retirement had anything to do with the controversy regarding the CARC report.
"Not that I am aware of," she said. "He worked at the agency for many years is my understanding."
Read the emails here: http://1.usa.gov/….
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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