Houston Chronicle: Toxic Secrets

PHIL

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HOUSTON CHRONICLE: TOXIC SECRETS

stories from the dark past

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The basic story is that several factories should have known that VCM is a human carcinogen, but didn't take measures to protect their workers, until years later. If that is really the case, the employers involved in my opinion are guilty of serious negligence, if not worse. And in all cases, workers or their relatives should be fairly compensated for suffering and death.

But at this moment we are almost 25 years later and the story is rather different. In all Western countries, VCM levels in VCM/PVC factories are since the mid-seventies down to below levels where there is a less than 1:100,000 cancer/premature death risk. Exceptions are a lot of Eastern European factories, it seems that former communist regimes were not so healthy for their workers...

The remaining emissions to the neighbours of the factories where we are working are less carcinogenic than what one heavy diesel truck emits as soot into the smallest streets...

Most victims are from before the nineties. There are no victims under the workers from after measures to reduce VCM levels at the work place. So why this story now? Since several years, there is a world wide move from groups like Greenpeace to ban chlorinated products, especially PVC. No matter if that is better for the environment or not. All means and stories are good to reach that target, including this one.

I don't know any product that can be made without carcinogenic raw materials and/or carcinogenic byproducts, be it glass, steel, copper, plastics,...
Crude oil contains hundreds of carcinogens, including benzene, waxes and PAH's. Wood dust (of oak and beach) is a proven human carcinogen. Sand for glass and concrete is a carcinogen. In all those cases the emissions must be kept below thight limits.

To make a comparison, the DFG (the German occ. health authority) gives a list of maximum allowed levels for (suspect) carcinogens at the workplace, which should give an occupational yearly cancer death risk of less than 1:100,000. See Chlorine and cancer.

As you think we must be crazy to work in factories which such amounts of a known human carcinogen, be assured, we have not the slightest intention for suicide. In fact, the possibility that one dies in a car accident by driving to the job is thousands of times higher than the cancer risk we have on our job...

To make some comparison: See Chlorine and risk.

In the articles, there is an allegation of a possible risk of testicular cancer for people who worked at PVC converter factories. The writer of the articles didn't read the "study" from Örebro (Sweden), or he did leave out important information: the researchers did point to phthalates, used as softener in some PVC-products, as "possible" culprit, not to PVC itself. But even that has no sense, because neither VCM, PVC (dust) or phthalates have been linked to testicular cancer in any animal study and phthalates have no cancerogenic effects whatever on primates, even not at extreme high levels. See also: The Örebro study on PVC and testicular cancer.

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