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9.7 Select Carcinogens

A carcinogen is any substance or agent that is capable of causing cancer – the abnormal or uncontrolled growth of new cells in any part of the body in humans or animals. Most carcinogens are chronic toxins with long latency periods that can cause damage after repeated or long duration exposures and often do not have immediate apparent harmful effects.

The OSHA Lab Standard defines a “select carcinogen” as any substance which meets one of the following criteria:

  1. It is regulated by OSHA as a carcinogen; or
  2. It is listed under the category, "known to be carcinogens," in the Annual Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) (latest edition); or
  3. It is listed under Group 1 ("carcinogenic to humans") by the International Agency for Research on Cancer Monographs (IARC) (latest editions); or
  4. It is listed in either Group 2A or 2B by IARC or under the category, "reasonably anticipated to be carcinogens" by NTP, and causes statistically significant tumor incidence in experimental animals in accordance with any of the following criteria:
    1. (A) After inhalation exposure of 6-7 hours per day, 5 days per week, for a significant portion of a lifetime to dosages of less than 10 mg/m(3); 
    2. (B) After repeated skin application of less than 300 (mg/kg of body weight) per week; or 
    3. (C) After oral dosages of less than 50 mg/kg of body weight per day.

With regard to mixtures, OSHA requires that a mixture “shall be assumed to present a carcinogenic hazard if it contains a component in concentrations of 0.1% or greater, which is considered to be carcinogenic.” When working with carcinogens, laboratory staff should adhere to Guidelines for Working with Particularly Hazardous Substances.

Note that the potential for carcinogens to result in cancer can also be dependent on other “lifestyle” factors such as:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Consumption of high fat diet 
  • Geographic location – industrial areas and UV light exposure 
  • Therapeutic drugs 
  • Inherited conditions

More information on carcinogens, including numerous useful web links such as a listing of OSHA regulated carcinogens, can be found on the OSHA Safety and Health Topics for Carcinogens webpage. The State of California has developed an extensive list of “Carcinogens Known to the State of California through Prop 65”. Please note, this list is being provided as supplemental information to the OSHA, NTP and IARC chemical lists and is not legally mandated by New York State.