The petroleum industry has known for decades that benzene, one of its most important products, is a potent cause of cancer in humans but has spent millions on a cover-up, am evidence database has revealed. Internal memorandums, emails, letters and meeting minutes obtained by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in a year-long investigation 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. CPI says many of the documents “chronicle an unparalleled effort by five major petrochemical companies” to finance benzene research in Shanghai, China. Benzene, which is produced from crude oil to make plastics, lubricants, dyes, adhesives and pesticides, is also a key component in petrol (gasoline). According to CPI, “it is 17th most produced chemical in the US.” Benzene is accepted to be a potent human carcinogen, causing leukaemia and other cancers. In 2004, a US National Cancer Institute study suggested there’s no safe threshold for people working with the chemical. CPI’s review of around 20,000 pages of internal records reveals the petrochemical industry went to great lengths to rebut studies showing harmful effects of benzene in low doses. This included touting how the expected results of a proposed study in China could be used to reduce liability and combat stricter regulation. Critics say such documents expose this Shanghai study for what it is: An industry attempt to buy scientific evidence.
Benzene and worker cancers: ‘An American tragedy’. Exposed: Decades of denial on poisons, evidence database compiled by the Center for Public Integrity, Columbia University and City University of New York, 4 December 2014. The ‘dirty dozen’ documents from the database. Risks 684.