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Paul Kiesel
Paul Kiesel
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Petrochemical Industry Continues to Attempt to Suppress Link Between Benzine Exposure and Disease

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Industry should not attempt to influence studies linking benzene exposure to cancer. The public should be protected from the petrochemical industries “junk science”.

A recent article published in the respected International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health sheds light on the petrochemical industry’s efforts to withhold data showing that employees working with benzene have an increased risk of leukemia, non-Hodkins lymphoma and other life threatening diseases. The author of the article has first hand knowledge, as a long time U.S. government scientist, of chemical companies’ efforts to withhold information from the government, misinterpret evidence of toxicity to benzene and delay findings of adverse health effects of low levels of benzene exposure. The companies are now being criticized for attempting to influence future studies by conditioning funding on their desired result.

“My 27 years of experience through employment with a federal research agency (NIOSH) and regulatory agency (OSHA) leads me to conclude that petrochemical industry representatives and their contractors often withhold information from the Federal Government and misinterpret positive study findings by others.”

What should be the role of chemical companies and their researchers in the evaluation of the toxic effect of benzene to their workers? The larger question is what should be industry’s role in the assessment of the health risks of its factories and products? A number of scientific studies have shown that research funded by the petrochemical industry tend to underestimate or fail to detect increased risks of disease among workers. The concern among many independent scientists is that by producing inaccurate studies the petrochemical industry is negatively impacting public health. The government is not able to properly regulate dangerous chemicals, such as benzene, when it relies on inaccurate industry studies. In addition, the public is lulled into a false sense of security that the chemicals they are exposed to are safe.

One obvious conclusion is that the “fox should not guard the henhouse”. The companies which create the risk should not be allowed to influence studies relating to the dangers of their industry and products. If the chemical companies were to take the high road they would turn health research of their industry over to the National Cancer Institute or other independent health organizations.

Kiesel Boucher Larson has expertise in toxic exposure cases and works with health professionals to promote a safer environment.