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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cover-up: Benzene and worker cancers: 'An American tragedy'

“We don’t know what the health effects are because they’re not going to let us know,” Black said. “It’s an American tragedy.”

"Internal memorandums, emails, letters and meeting minutes obtained by the Center for Public Integrity over the past year suggest that America’s oil and chemical titans, coordinated by their trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, spent at least $36 million on research “designed to protect member company interests,” as one 2000 API summary put it. Many of the documents chronicle an unparalleled effort by five major petrochemical companies to finance benzene research in Shanghai, China, where the pollutant persists in workplaces. Others attest to the industry’s longstanding interest in such “concerns” as childhood leukemia.

Taken together, the documents — put in context by interviews with dozens of lawyers, scientists, academics, regulators and industry representatives — depict a “research strategy” built on dubious motives, close corporate oversight and painstaking public relations. They comprise an industry playbook to counteract growing evidence of benzene’s toxic effects, which continue to command the attention of federal and state regulators and be fiercely debated in court.


“The conspiracy exists, and the conspiracy involves hiding the true hazards of benzene at low doses,” said Robert Black, a Houston lawyer who represents plaintiffs in toxic tort cases. Since 2004, while handling dozens of lawsuits filed on behalf of workers sickened by leukemia, lymphoma and other diseases associated with benzene, Black has obtained 16,000 pages of internal records detailing the industry’s research tactics, which he shared with the Center. Other lawyers provided an additional 5,000 pages. The documents may represent the tip of the iceberg. For decades, the petrochemical industry has employed what one litigation guide calls a “comprehensive strategy” for defending against workers’ legal claims. Penned by a senior attorney at Shell Oil, the undated document lays out a coordinated “industry response” aimed at shielding internal company records on benzene. It warns defense attorneys to “avoid unnecessary or inadvertent disclosure of sensitive documents or information,” for instance, and to “disclose sensitive benzene documents only on court order.”

http://www.publicintegrity.org/2014/12/04/16320/benzene-and-worker-cancers-american-tragedy

Sociopaths...corporate sociopaths.