Preamble to the IARC Monographs


1. Exposure data

Each Monograph includes general information on the agent: this information may vary substantially between agents and must be adapted accordingly. Also included is information on production and use (when appropriate), methods of analysis and detection, occurrence, and sources and routes of human occupational and environmental exposures. Depending on the agent, regulations and guidelines for use may be presented.

(a) General information on the agent

For chemical agents, sections on chemical and physical data are included: the Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number, the latest primary name and the IUPAC systematic name are recorded; other synonyms are given, but the list is not necessarily comprehensive. Information on chemical and physical properties that are relevant to identification, occurrence and biological activity is included. A description of technical products of chemicals includes trade names, relevant specifications and available information on composition and impurities. Some of the trade names given may be those of mixtures in which the agent being evaluated is only one of the ingredients.

For biological agents, taxonomy, structure and biology are described, and the degree of variability is indicated. Mode of replication, life cycle, target cells, persistence, latency, host response and clinical disease other than cancer are also presented.

For physical agents that are forms of radiation, energy and range of the radiation are included. For foreign bodies, fibres and respirable particles, size range and relative dimensions are indicated.

For agents such as mixtures, drugs or lifestyle factors, a description of the agent, including its composition, is given.

Whenever appropriate, other information, such as historical perspectives or the description of an industry or habit, may be included.

(b) Analysis and detection

An overview of methods of analysis and detection of the agent is presented, including their sensitivity, specificity and reproducibility. Methods widely used for regulatory purposes are emphasized. Methods for monitoring human exposure are also given. No critical evaluation or recommendation of any method is meant or implied.

(c) Production and use

The dates of first synthesis and of first commercial production of a chemical, mixture or other agent are provided when available; for agents that do not occur naturally, this information may allow a reasonable estimate to be made of the date before which no human exposure to the agent could have occurred. The dates of first reported occurrence of an exposure are also provided when available. In addition, methods of synthesis used in past and present commercial production and different methods of production, which may give rise to different impurities, are described.

The countries where companies report production of the agent, and the number of companies in each country, are identified. Available data on production, international trade and uses are obtained for representative regions. It should not, however, be inferred that those areas or nations are necessarily the sole or major sources or users of the agent. Some identified uses may not be current or major applications, and the coverage is not necessarily comprehensive. In the case of drugs, mention of their therapeutic uses does not necessarily represent current practice nor does it imply judgement as to their therapeutic efficacy.

(d) Occurrence and exposure

Information on the occurrence of an agent in the environment is obtained from data derived from the monitoring and surveillance of levels in occupational environments, air, water, soil, plants, foods and animal and human tissues. When available, data on the generation, persistence and bioaccumulation of the agent are also included. Such data may be available from national databases.

Data that indicate the extent of past and present human exposure, the sources of exposure, the people most likely to be exposed and the factors that contribute to the exposure are reported. Information is presented on the range of human exposure, including occupational and environmental exposures. This includes relevant findings from both developed and developing countries. Some of these data are not distributed widely and may be available from government reports and other sources. In the case of mixtures, industries, occupations or processes, information is given about all agents known to be present. For processes, industries and occupations, a historical description is also given, noting variations in chemical composition, physical properties and levels of occupational exposure with date and place. For biological agents, the epidemiology of infection is described.

(e) Regulations and guidelines

Statements concerning regulations and guidelines (e.g. occupational exposure limits, maximal levels permitted in foods and water, pesticide registrations) are included, but they may not reflect the most recent situation, since such limits are continuously reviewed and modified. The absence of information on regulatory status for a country should not be taken to imply that that country does not have regulations with regard to the exposure. For biological agents, legislation and control, including vaccination and therapy, are described.

Posted 23 January 2006