Dow’s Rules, Dow Rules

How many aces should one player be allowed to have?

As the New York Times reported last week, the EPA has denied a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to revoke approval of the herbicide 2,4-D. A story about an environmental advocacy group coming up short – - unfortunately, we have heard that tale before.

Further down in the Times’ article, however, comes the real story that explains what happened here and also why efforts to limit environmental and human exposures to toxic substances is such a challenge.

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PA Supreme Court: Dow Must Face Questions On Brain Cancer Epi
Dow HQ

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that Dow Chemical must produce witnesses to testify about alleged scientific irregularities in epidemiology studies the company sponsored to look at links between vinyl chloride and brain cancer.

In an April 10, 2012 decision, the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of Rohm and Haas, now a subsidiary of Dow, which means the opinion of the Superior Court (Pennsylvania’s intermediate appellate court) stands.

And that means Dow and Rohm and Haas have lost their challenge to a court order compelling Dow to make available certain witnesses to answer questions about whether Dow concealed from epidemiology researchers evidence of workers who had been exposed to vinyl chloride and who later were diagnosed with brain cancer. The reason Dow allegedly concealed such evidence: To weaken the scientific links between vinyl chloride, a key ingredient in the making of plastic, and brain cancer.

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Low Dose Exposure and the Naysayers
BPA plastic bottles

That sounds like the name of a rock band, I know, but the headline actually refers to an important scientific struggle over the health effects of exposures to even relatively small amounts of dangerous chemicals.

BPA (found in plastics). Dioxin (highly toxic byproduct of various industrial processes). Atrazine (a widely used herbicide).

Dangerous chemicals, right? One would think that it would be easy and obvious to associate these well-known chemicals with harmful consequences to human health and also to wildlife. When there is a well-funded, highly motivated lobby resisting the weight of scientific findings, then that lobby can create a scientific debate.

Who could possibly be interested in resisting that highly toxic chemicals, even at lower doses, can have adverse health effects? Why, the chemical industry, of course.

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