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"Trade Secrets": The Latest in a Long Line of Conspiracies, Charges Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.

CHICAGO, IL, March 23, /E-Wire/ — Bill Moyers is to be warmly commended for his March 26 program "Trade Secrets". This PBS Special will document the chemical industry's conspiracy in denying information on the grave cancer risks to hundreds of thousands of workers manufacturing the potent carcinogen vinyl chloride (VC) and its polyvinyl chloride (PVC) product.

As newsworthy is the fact that there is a decades-long track record of numerous such conspiracies involving a wide range of industries and chemicals, besides VC. These conspiracies have resulted in an escalation in the incidence and mortality of cancer, and chronic disease, among workers and the general public unknowingly exposed to toxics and carcinogens in the workplace, air, water and consumer products--food, household products, and cosmetics and toiletries.

This misconduct involves negligence, manipulation, suppression, distortion and destruction of health and environmental data by mainstream industries, their consultants and trade associations, notably the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA). These practices are so frequent as to preclude dismissal as exceptional aberrations and, in many instances, arguably rise to the level of criminality as illustrated below:

  • Suppression of evidence from the early 1960's on the toxicity of VC by Dow Chemical, and on its carcinogenicity from 1970 by the VC/PVC industry and CMA. Based on these findings, a blue ribbon committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science charged in 1976 that: "Because of the suppression of these data (by the CMA), tens of thousands of workers were exposed without warning--to toxic concentrations of VC".
  • Suppression of evidence since the 1930's on the hazards of asbestos, asbestosis and lung cancer, by Johns-Manville and Raybestos-Manhattan, besides the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. This information was detailed in industry documents dubbed the "Asbestos Pentagon Papers", released at 1978 Congressional Hearings.
  • Suppression by Rohm and Haas of information, known since 1962 but not released until 1971, on the potent carcinogenicity of the resin bischloromethylether. This resulted in deaths from lung cancer of some 50 men, many non-smokers and under the age of 50.
  • Suppression of carcinogenicity data on organochlorine pesticides: Aldrin/Dieldrin, by Shell Chemical Company since 1962; Chlordane/Heptachlor, by Velsicol Chemical Company since 1959; and Kepone, by Allied Chemical Company since the early 1960's.
  • Falsification in the early 1970's of test data on the drug Aldactone and artificial sweetener Aspartame by Hazleton Laboratories under contract to G.D. Searle Company.
  • Falsification and manipulation by Monsanto since the 1960's of data on dioxin, and its contamination of products including the herbicide Agent Orange, designed to block occupational exposure claims and tightening of federal regulations. This evidence was detailed in 1990 by Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Criminal Investigation which charged Monsanto with a "long pattern of fraud" and with reporting "false information" to the Agency.
  • Fraudulent claims by Monsanto since 1985 that genetically engineered (rBGH) milk is indistinguishable from natural milk. These claims persist despite contrary evidence.
  • Monsanto's reckless marketing in 1976 of plastic Coke bottles made from acrylonitrile, a chemical closely related to VC, prior to its testing for carcinogenicity and migration into the Coke. The bottles were subsequently banned after acrylonitrile was found to be a potent carcinogen contaminating the Coke.
  • Destruction of epidemiological data on ethyleneimine and other chemicals by Dow and DuPont. This was admitted at 1973 Department of Labor Advisory Committee meetings in response to challenges to produce data on whose basis industry had falsely claimed that these chemicals were not carcinogens.
  • Destruction of test data on drugs, food additives, and pesticides as admitted in 1977 by Industrial Biotest Laboratories, under contract to major chemical industries.
  • Failure of the mainstream cosmetics and toiletry industries to warn of the wide range of avoidable carcinogenic ingredients, contaminants and precursors in their products used by the great majority of the U.S. population over virtually their lifetimes.

(For supporting documentation of the above charges, see the author's: Testimony on White Collar Crime, H.R. 4973, before the Subcommittee on Crime of the House Judiciary Committee, 12/13/79; The Politics of Cancer, 1979; and The Politics of Cancer, Revisited, 1998.)

Hopefully, the public and the media will be outraged by this longstanding evidence of recklessness and conspiracies, graphically reinforced by Moyers' program. The public and the media should finally hold industry accountable, and demand urgent investigation and radical reform of current industry practices besides governmental unresponsiveness. The Moyers' program has already galvanized formation of a coalition of grassroots citizen groups, "Coming Clean", to demand more responsible and open industry practices, including phasing out the use and manufacture of toxic chemicals.

Criticism should also be directed to the multibillion dollar cancer establishment — the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society--for their failure to warn Congress, regulatory agencies and the general public of the scientific evidence on the permeation of the totality of the environment with often persistent industrial carcinogens thus precluding corrective legislation and regulation, besides denying workers and the public of their inalienable right-to-know.

Source: Cancer Prevention Coalition

Contact: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition
and Professor environmental and occupational medicine, University of Illinois School of Public Health, Chicago
312-996-2297 email:
Web site:

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