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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Smoldering Battle Over Saccharin Heats Up
28 October 1997 8:00 pm
After more than 2 decades under suspicion as a human carcinogen, saccharin--one of the most controversial food additives ever--may be exonerated by the federal government after a hearing later this week. But some prominent scientists oppose the move, arguing that the artificial sweetener is still potentially dangerous.
Saccharin came under suspicion in the 1970s when studies found it caused bladder cancer in male rats fed piles of sodium saccharin. Other animal tests and human population studies, however, turned up negative or equivocal findings. The debate became so hot that in 1977, Congress ordered the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) not to ban saccharin. But FDA still requires warnings on food, and the federal Report on Carcinogens lists saccharin as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."
On Thursday and Friday, an advisory panel of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) meeting in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, will consider a petition from an industry group, the Calorie Control Council, to remove saccharin from the 1999 carcinogens report. In a draft document recommending delisting, NTP points to new research suggesting that male rats fed saccharin develop bladder tumors only under "rat-specific" urinary conditions not likely to occur in humans, including high pH and the formation of crystals.
But NTP's arguments are "flawed," claims a 24 October letter from the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C. Among the eight signers are epidemiologist Devra Davis of the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., and pathologist Emmanuel Farber, of Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, chair of a 1978 National Academy of Sciences panel that found saccharin to be a weak carcinogen. The letter notes, for example, that other cancers increased in some rodent studies; and that certain subgroups of people using artificial sweeteners, such as nonsmoking women, did appear to have a bladder cancer risk. "My concern is children," says Farber, since they could consume "lots of saccharin" in soft drinks. "That makes me nervous."
They aren't the only researchers with doubts: According to NTP's William Jameson, the votes on two NTP scientific committees that recommended delisting saccharin were not unanimous. The NTP is expected to send a final recommendation to Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala sometime next year.