NIH News Release
NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 3, 1998
Bill Grigg, NIEHS
(919) 541-2605
Sandy Lange, NTP
(919) 541-0530

Testing Sought for Brighteners, Natural Substance in Spices,
Cosmetic Chemical, Three Herbs, a Natural Oil and a Fertilizer
A federal interagency committee has recommended that the National Toxicology Program review and possibly test two fiber brighteners, an intermediate chemical in manufacturing, some cosmetics, a natural oil used as a food additive, an ingredient in some spices, three herbs -- comfrey, goldenseal and saw palmetto -- and a fertilizer, for their potential to cause cancer or reproductive and developmental problems.

The NTP, a program headquartered at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, announced these and other interagency recommendations for testing today, and sought public and scientific comment and data. NIEHS and NTP Director Kenneth Olden said, "A recommendation for testing does not necessarily mean a substance is a carcinogen or mutagen but often reflects -- as in several of these cases -- that substances have gone into widespread use without as much testing as, in retrospect, we would like."

The Interagency Committee for Chemical Evaluation and Coordination recommended study of:

Comfrey has been commercially available as a powdered root or leaf, as well as in capsules, and is espoused for cancer, sedation, and as a stimulant, diuretic and anti-hemorrhagic. It has also been used in salads and as an herbal tea. Reports of toxic effects led the American Herbal Products Association to recommend in 1993 that it only be used externally.

Goldenseal, which grows in hardwood forests of Canada and the eastern United States, is sometimes advocated for digestive and hemorrhagic disorders, upper respiratory congestion, mucous membrane inflammation, skin and eye problems and cancer. Its constituent alkaloids berberine and hydrastine would also be studied.

Saw palmetto, the sixth largest-selling herbal dietary supplement in the United States, is used extensively to self-treat benign prostate hyperplasia -- an enlarged prostate. Controlled studies have not shown it to be effective for BPH and the Food and Drug Administration considers it mislabeled when sold for this purpose.

The Interagency Committee for Chemical Evaluation and Coordination's members include representatives of the National Cancer Institute, Consumer Product Safety Commission, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, FDA, the National Library of Medicine, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as NIEHS.

Comments on the chemicals recommended and data on them are requested by March 8 and should be sent to Dr. William Eastin, NIEHS/NTP, PO Box 12233, Research Triangle Park, N.C. 27709.