In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof describes what he terms the “cancer lobby” — how major industry spends millions of dollars to influence Congress in support of carcinogenic chemicals:
Who knew that carcinogens had their own lobby in Washington? Just consider formaldehyde, which is found in everything from nail polish to kitchen countertops, fabric softeners to carpets. Largely because of its use in building materials, we breathe formaldehyde fumes when we’re inside our homes. According to government scientists, it causes cancer.
The chemical industry is working frantically to suppress that scientific consensus — because it fears “public confusion.” Big Chem apparently worries that you might be confused if you learned that formaldehyde caused cancer of the nose and throat, and perhaps leukemia.
The industry’s strategy is to lobby Congress to cut off money for the Report on Carcinogens, a 500-page consensus document published every two years by the National Institutes of Health, containing the best information about what agents cause cancer.
“Formaldehyde is known to be a human carcinogen,” declared the most recent Report on Carcinogens, published in 2011. The chemical industry was outraged, because it sells lots of formaldehyde that ends up in people’s homes, often without their knowledge.
The American Chemistry Council first got its pals in Congress to order a $1 million follow-up study on formaldehyde and styrene. Then it demanded, through a provision drafted by Representative Denny Rehberg, a Montana Republican, that no money be spent on another Report on Carcinogens until the follow-up was completed — meaning a four-year delay until the next report.
The American Chemistry Council is also trying to undermine scientific reviews by the Environmental Protection Agency. You can say this for our political system: Even carcinogens have an advocate in Washington!
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