A carcinogen commonly describes any agent that can initiate or speed the development of malignant or potentially malignant tumors, malignant neoplastic proliferation of cells, or cells that possess such materials. Many compounds have some potential for being a carcinogen. Chemical form, concentration, procedure, and routes of exposures are all factors to be considered in carcinogen risk analysis.
Carcinogens are researched by several agencies. The criteria for listing an agent substance, mixture, or exposure circumstance as a carcinogen are generally broken down into two categories: known to be a human carcinogen, or reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.
The conclusions made regarding carcinogenicity in humans or experimental animals are based on scientific judgment, with consideration given to all relevant information. If you would like to learn more about the process to assess carcinogens, you can read about the criteria from the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
OSHA defines select carcinogens as any substance which meets one of the following criteria:
- It is regulated by OSHA as a carcinogen. Note that a mixture shall be considered a carcinogenic hazard if it contains a component in concentrations of 0.1 percent or greater, which is considered to be a carcinogen under this section.
- It is listed under the category, “known to be carcinogens,” in the Annual Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program (NTP). This report includes substances “known to be human carcinogens” because there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from human studies that indicate a causal relationship between exposure to the agent and human cancer. The list also includes some substances which are “reasonably anticipated to be carcinogens.”
It is listed under Group 1 (“carcinogenic to humans”), Group 2A (“probably carcinogenic to humans”) or 2B (“possibly carcinogenic to humans”) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The most up to date list is published on the IARC website.
Below are common examples of chemical carcinogens used in campus laboratories.