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CHEMICAL INDUSTRY CONTINUES TO TRY HIDING THE FACTS FROM THE PUBLIC IN THEIR CRITIQUE OF BILL MOYERS' TRADE SECRETS EXPOSE

The American Chemistry Council, in its ongoing effort to discredit the PBS broadcast TRADE SECRETS: A Moyers Report, issued a press release dated March 26, 2001 that purports to rebut the historical record presented in the investigative report by claiming that the chemical industry played an activist role in addressing the health risks of these chemicals.

In fact, the American Chemistry Council response ignores the contrary information in the industry's own documents which are at the heart of the PBS broadcast, and which are posted on the PBS.org/tradesecrets web site.


LIVER CANCER AND VINYL CHLORIDE:

What the ACC says: The ACC claims that "Industry played a major role in discovering angiosarcoma and acted swiftly to make its workplace safe." They claim this because, after four men who had worked with vinyl chloride died of liver cancer, BF Goodrich made the news public (early 1974)

What the ACC doesn't tell you: The documents show that the industry knew long before those deaths that there could be a link.
  • Representatives of American industry traveled to Bologna to examine Dr. Cesare Maltoni's work - work which had uncovered angiosarcoma in laboratory rats exposed to vinyl chloride. Those representatives reported back to their headquarters that the work was "of excellent quality" and, "the results on rats are probably undeniable." (February 13, 1973)

  • The American companies signed non-disclosure agreements with the European industry sponsoring Maltoni's work (October 19, 1972; October 30, 1972) and pledged "to hold such information strictly in confidence within our company unless and until formally notified specific consent to its release has been granted by the European sponsors."

  • Later, the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety issued an official request for all information -published and unpublished - on vinyl chloride. Though one staff member of the industry's Washington trade association wrote of the "moral obligation not to withhold from the Government significant information..." (March 26, 1973), a meeting of the industry concluded that, "We should not volunteer reference to the European project..." (May 21, 1973). In the same meeting, the vinyl chloride producers also decided not to inform NIOSH about the dangers to consumers from exposure to vinyl chloride in aerosol products (March 24, 1969) as, "It was judged that possible consumer safety and related potential hazards would not be pertinent to a presentation to NIOSH which is concerned with employee health matters." (May 21, 1973) Two months later, an official from a chemical company wrote that, "If the information were not made public or at least made available to the government," the March letter "could be construed as evidence of an illegal conspiracy." (May 31, 1973)

  • According to the industry's own notes, when the meeting with NIOSH took place on July 17, 1973, there was no mention of either Dr. Maltoni or angiosarcoma.

  • It wasn't until six months later that BF Goodrich announced that four workers from its Louisville, Kentucky vinyl chloride plant had died from angiosarcoma.

What the ACC says: The ACC press release quotes a January 31, 1974 letter from Dr. Marcus Key, the head of NIOSH at the time, praising BF Goodrich for its initiative in making the deaths known. They further claim that they told the government about Dr. Maltoni's preliminary findings at the meeting with NIOSH in 1973.

What the ACC doesn't tell you: The documents show that Dr. Key later testified that the truth was different.
  • Dr. Key did write the letter cited by ACC, but at the time he was unaware that the industry had withheld information about angiosarcoma from NIOSH. Dr. Key later testified before the United States Senate - after he had discovered that the industry had known about the link to angiosarcoma in July, and had not informed NIOSH. (May 24, 1974; July 19, 1974) On August 21, 1974, he told a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee that, "No mention was made to us about liver cancer and the new Italian investigator was not named...I would like to re-emphasize that no information about liver cancers was given. If there had been, I think we would have taken an entirely different course of action in view of the widespread use of this material."

  • While the ACC is correct in stating that workplace exposure was reduced in 1975, they are wrong to take credit for this reduction - it was accomplished over the objections of industry.


BRAIN CANCER AND VINYL CHLORIDE

What the ACC says: The ACC press release states that "The world's leading researchers have studied vinyl chloride and brain cancer and concluded that the evidence does not support a link between brain cancer and exposure to vinyl chloride."

What the ACC doesn't tell you: The Environmental Protection Agency has declared vinyl chloride a known human carcinogen.
  • As recently as May of 2000, in its assessment of vinyl chloride carcinogenicity for sites other than liver, EPA said: "On the basis of small but statistically significant increases in brain and soft tissue sarcomas in the large updated cohort reported on by CMA (now called the ACC)(1998a), the evidence for induction of cancer at these sites may be considered suggestive."


HAND INJURIES

What the ACC says: The ACC claims the industry discovered the problem through its research and subsequently published the information in the medical literature.

What the ACC doesn't tell you: The 1967 medical journal article they point to came at least three years after the medical officers of producing companies began discussing the problem among themselves.
  • Bernie Skaggs complained of his problems back in 1959 and by 1964, medical officers of producing companies were discussing the problem among themselves. There is no evidence, however, that workers were informed of any health concerns. (November 12, 1964)

  • In June of 1966, the companies were told that, "There is no question but that skin lesions, absorption of the bone of the terminal joints of the hands, and circulatory changes can occur in workers associated with the polymerization of PVC." (June 6 and 7, 1966) But, again, instead of informing the workers, the producers were reminded that "the confidentiality of this data is exceedingly important." (June 10, 1966)

  • In an October 1966 meeting, the producers discussed among themselves evidence that the disease might be systemic; workers were still not informed. (October 6, 1966)

  • When several of the industry medical officers who had been sharing knowledge of the hand disease, along with Dr. John Creech at the Louisville plant, reported the cases in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1967, they wrote, "The specific causes are unknown." And, instead of advising that exposure be changed, they advised that "personnel assigned to polycleaning, prior to assignment" should be evaluated to eliminate "the personal idiosyncrasy factor."
What the ACC says: The ACC claims that they "worked with a leading university to develop additional information and moved to change workplace practices."

What the ACC doesn't tell you: The industry did not change workplace practice until six years after they commissioned the University of Michigan to survey workers exposed to vinyl chloride, and then only when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ordered the industry to do so.
  • A February 1969 report from the University of Michigan researchers concluded that the "association between reactor cleaning and acroosteolysis is sufficiently clear cut and recommended that "exposure to vinyl chloride should be reduced from 500 ppm to 50 ppm." (February 1969) But, at a meeting of its Occupational Health Committee in April 1969, the members of the Manufacturing Chemists Association - in a 7 to 3 vote - declined to accept the report or to reduce exposure to 50 ppm. (April 30 1969)


Press Contacts:

Colby Kelly
Kelly & Salerno Communications
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Karen Salerno
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