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Report worrisome for many reasons

Just a thought

July 06, 2011
I've been accused in the past of being "anti-corporation," mainly because I don't believe we should allow corporations to cause us harm, mistreat us or swindle us in the name of making huge profits. A recent government report that was released confirms that big corporations have no conscience, that they'll hurt us in a heartbeat as long as their investors and management have to use wheelbarrows to haul all their profits to the bank.

The report, produced for the government by the National Toxicology Program, issued warnings that two materials in daily use by millions of Americans have been evaluated by government scientists. One of those materials, formaldehyde, has been listed as a carcinogen and is used in "worrisome quantities" in plywood, particle board, mortuaries and hair salons. The report also indicated that styrene, used in boats, bathtubs and Styrofoam, may cause cancer but is often found in low levels in consumer products, which reduces the risk somewhat.

The scientists said that those who work in manufacturing and are exposed to the chemicals in the workplace are the most at-risk group, but consumers "should still avoid contact with formaldehyde and styrene," along with six other chemicals that have been added to the government's official Report on Carcinogens.

What is really bothersome about this report is that it was delayed for years because of intense lobbying from the chemical industry. In other words, the chemicals have been known to cause cancer for years, but the corporations that produce them could afford to pay enough powerful lobbyists to keep the chemicals flowing; meanwhile, millions of us were put at risk.

The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to an article in The New York Times, warned this spring that Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, a hair-care product, contained unacceptable levels of formaldehyde and that salon workers have reported headaches, nose bleeds, burning eyes, vomiting and asthma attacks after using the product and other hair straighteners. Studies of workers exposed to high levels of formaldehyde have found increased incidences of myeloid leukemia and rare cancers of the nasal passages and upper mouth.

Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, said in the article that formaldehyde "is the smell in new houses, and it's in cosmetics like nail polish. All a reasonable person can do is manage their exposure and decrease it to as little as possible. It's everywhere."

The chemical industry's response to the report was predictable.

"It will unfairly scare workers, neighbors to plants and could have a chilling effect on the development of new products," Tom Dobbins of the American Composites Manufacturing Association told The Times. "Our companies are primarily small businesses, and this could hurt jobs and local economies."

So, it's perfectly acceptable with the industry to put people at risk, and even cost lives, as long as there's a profit in it. The article said that some in the industry have promised to keep fighting the report and will appeal elements of its findings. But some manufacturers already have begun using alternatives to formaldehyde in their products. So, what that tells us is that there are safer chemicals that can do the same job, but certain corporations refuse to use them, probably because it would cost a little more to do so.

And another thing this report tells us is, if the information on these products have been held up for years by lobbyists, our elected officials have been selling us, and our health, out to the highest bidders. Politicians, those who are supposed to represent us, must have known about this for years but failed to act on our behalf due to a few lobbyists who represented the companies that produce the chemicals. Evidently the corporations were better represented than the American people.

Call me "anti-corporation" if it makes you feel better, but, actually, I'm just "anti-killing innocent people for a profit." I'll bet I sleep better at night than you do.

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