Government-wide policies and standards for controlling possible cancer-causing substances were issued by the Carter administration yesterday.

The new policy, which was hailed immediately by the chemical industry as a "first step" toward uniform standards, is designed to coordinate enforcement of 21 federal laws on the subject by seven agencies.

Administration officials described the policy as the first substantial streamlining project to result from a White House regulatory council, created last year to coordinate federal regulatory activity.

Council chairman and Environmental Protection Agency head Douglas Costle said the new policy "formulates a consistent strategy to be followed by diverse agencies with different responsibilities in the area of controlling carcinogens."

"It means that they will work together to combat these hazards, that they will use the same scientific basis for their actions and that the steps they take -- the rules or guidelines they issue -- will be complementary and mark the least disruptive, most efficient path to minimizing or eliminating the dangers of cancer-causing substances," he added.

"Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S.," Costle said. "One in five of us will die from it."

He said that some 60 percent to 90 percent of all cancer cases in the U.S. may be due to "environmental causes, (including) tobacco, diet, alcohol, radiation and the multitude of toxic chemicals put into widespread use since World War II."

The policy will have the most influence over the decisions of the EPA, Agriculture Department, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration.

Robert A. Roland, president of the Chemical Manufacturers Association, said, "We applaud the government's attempts to move toward the development of a uniform cancer policy aimed at controlling this deadly disease, but the policy announced today constitutes only the first step towards this objective."

Key determinations of the policy include:

Animal tests are a valid method for determining whether a substance will cause cancer in people.

With few exceptions, every proposal by an agency to control a carcinogen will be accompanied by some form of risk assessment.

Agencies should consider such things as the level of risk, whether special population groups like children are exposed and whether regulatory action would reduce not only cancer threats but also other human or environmental hazards.

Agencies should not try to reach "Zero risk" from carcinogens unless the economic and social costs are slight.