Friday, February 12, 2016

Science for Sale: Making a cancer cluster disappear

Science for Sale: Making a cancer cluster disappear

Joel's comments: 
The following article by the Center for Public Integrity documents how the chemical industry protects its interests by co-opting scientists and the public health establishment. 

The telecom/wireless industry has employed the same playbook originally developed by Big Tobacco to manufacture doubt about the harm of its products. If you don't believe me, see the latest New York Times article on CDC's reversal of its cell phone radiation warnings and Microwave News' coverage of this story about how an industry influences government policy through its scientific consultants. Also see Norm Alster's book, "Captured agency: How the Federal Communications Commission is dominated by the industries it presumably regulates" my post, "Government Failure to Address Wireless Radiation Risks," and Dr. Dariusz Leszczynski's blog, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place."


Making a cancer cluster disappear

After a record number of brain tumors at a chemical plant, industry launched a flawed study that obscured the extent of the problem

David Heath, Center for Public Integrity, Feb 10, 2016
Science and opinion have become increasingly conflated, in large part because of corporate influence. As we explain in “Science for Sale,” an investigative series by the Center for Public Integrity and co-published with, industry-backed research has exploded — often with the aim of obscuring the truth — as government-funded science dwindles.
"... More than 7,500 men had worked at the plant since it opened in 1941. Tracking those who had died was a daunting task. It took three years, but scientists at OSHA and their brethren at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, would discover 23 brain-tumor deaths there — double the normal rate. It was the largest cluster of work-related brain tumors ever reported, and it became national news, catching the attention of The Washington Post, The New York Times and even Walter Cronkite.

The leading suspect was vinyl chloride, a chemical used to make polyvinyl chloride plastic. PVC is found in an endless array of products from plastic wrap to vinyl siding to children’s toys. Industry studies already had found higher-than-expected rates of brain cancer at vinyl chloride plants, and in 1979, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, part of the World Health Organization, took the unequivocal position that vinyl chloride caused brain tumors.

Yet today, a generation later, the scientific literature largely exonerates vinyl chloride. A 2000 industry review of brain cancer deaths at vinyl chloride plants found that the chemical’s link to brain cancer “remains unclear.” Citing that study and others, IARC in 2008 reversed itself.

However, a Center for Public Integrity review of thousands of once-confidential documents shows that the industry study cited by IARC was flawed, if not rigged. Although that study was supposed to tally all brain cancer deaths of workers exposed to vinyl chloride, Union Carbide didn’t include Malone’s death. In fact, the company counted only one of the 23 brain-tumor deaths in Texas City.

The Center’s investigation found that because of the way industry officials designed the study, it left out workers known to have been exposed to vinyl chloride, including some who had died of brain tumors. Excluding even a few deaths caused by a rare disease can dramatically change the results of a study."


Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., Director
Center for Family and Community Health
School of Public Health
University of California, Berkeley

Electromagnetic Radiation Safety

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Twitter:                  @berkeleyprc

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