Feds apparently disregarded toxic links to illnesses
By Laura Frank, Rocky Mountain News (Contact)
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Javier Manzano © The Rocky
Deadly Denial: 3-day special report
The U.S. Department of Labor says it can find "no known" link between toxic exposure and at least 77 medical conditions. Sick workers have come to call this the "no pay" list. But the Rocky Mountain News found that at least seven of those listed diseases actually have "good" or "strong" evidence linking them to toxic substances.
The Rocky discovered the links through a simple search of an Internet database of disease studies compiled by doctors for the nonprofit Collaborative on Health and the Environment.
The labor department's top compensation program official, Shelby Hallmark, was personally alerted to the database three years ago by Richard Miller, who was then at the Government Accountability Project in Washington, D.C., according to e-mails obtained by the Rocky.
But the information apparently was never used. The labor department's "no pay" list included at least seven illnesses that the CHE database shows are linked to exposure to substances commonly found at weapons plants.
Of these, only one shows up on the database that the labor department now uses. When claimants select "pancreatic cancer" from the list, they are informed, "No toxic substances in the ... database show an established link to the selected occupational disease at this time."
MAKING THE CONNECTION
Doctors for the nonprofit Collaborative on Health and the Environment tie the following to toxic exposure:
Breast Cancer: Strong evidence of a link to radiation, PCBs, solvents;
Diabetes: Strong evidence of link to arsenic; good evidence of a link to dioxins;
Gallbladder cancer: Good evidence of link to thorium dioxide; limited evidence of a link to benzene, PCBs;
Pancreatic cancer: Good evidence of a link to radiation, solvents, PCBs;
Prostate cancer: Good evidence of a link to solvents, aromatic amines, methyl bromide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons;
Rheumatoid arthritis: Strong evidence of silica; Limited evidence of solvents;
Salivary gland cancer: Strong evidence of a link to radiation.
According to the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, "strong" evidence is considered "well-accepted by the medical community." "Good" evidence includes chemicals linked to disease through epidemiological studies, or through human and animal studies. The Rocky did not include illnesses that had only "limited" evidence of a link to toxic exposure.