As with Asbestos , Industry Execs Try to Suppress Knowledge of Dangerous Chemicals

Recently opinion journalist, Nicholas D. Kristof, wrote an op-ed column for The New York Times shining a light on how big industry works hard to keep the truth about carcinogens from being known to the general public.  Way back in the 1930’s they did it in regards to the dangers of asbestos, denying and shedding doubt that asbestos causes mesothelioma, a fatal form of aggressive cancer that is now killing hundreds of thousands of people every year.

Not much has changed in terms of the tactics.  The new carcinogens causing the chemical industry to use their delay and derail tactics are formaldehyde and Styrene.  The industry is now trying to suppress  scientific consensus that clearly shows that formaldehyde, a chemical found in many homes unbeknownst to most occupants, causes cancer and perhaps leukemia.

They are using big money and lobbying techniques to delay publication of the dangers of both formaldehyde and Syrene in the Report on Carcinogens, “a 500-page consensus document published every two years by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).”  As Kristof says, “If that sounds like shooting the messenger, well, it is.”

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical that is used in many building materials and household products. The NIH states:

Formaldehyde has been classified as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.Research studies of workers exposed to formaldehyde have suggested an association between formaldehyde exposure and several cancers, including nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia.

As for Styrene, a synthetic chemical used in many plastics, rubber and resins, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) states:

“About 90,000 workers, including those who make boats, tubs, and showers, are potentially exposed to styrene. Health effects from exposure to styrene may involve the central nervous system and include complaints of headache, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, malaise, difficulty in concentrating, and a feeling of intoxication.”

Despite overwhelming scientific evidence, the chemical industry is trying to cast doubt on the fact that both of these chemicals can cause serious illness – just like industry executives did when it became known that asbestos was killing workers and their families.

We must hope that something has been learned by those both inside and outside the industry that prevents hiding information from the public just for big business profit when it could save lives.

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