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We are completely on the same page when it comes to the industry's burden of proof. But if you're trying to track down the risk factors in an individual patient history, then "exposure to untested industrial chemicals" is not helpful.

If you have a bunch of cancer clusters around exposures to a certain chemical or cocktail of chemicals, then chances are that it has been sliced, diced and analysed seven ways to Sunday already. A PubMed search should bring up something, at the very least.

If it hasn't, I'd suggest you write an e-mail to an oncologist at the local research hospital to tell her about the cluster and the absence of PubMed studies. She'll be grateful - there's at least three or four papers in each of those clusters, and if you have several then you can make a couple of metastudies too. Even if she doesn't have time to do it herself, it's an easy way to pad the resumés of her grad students.

And there is no such thing as a "nasty" chemical or a "safe" chemical. All chemicals are dangerous if they are not handled appropriately. Common household chemicals like hydrogen peroxide or caustic soda can be extremely dangerous if they are not handled with due care. Conversely, even TATP or liquid nitroglycerin (the classic "nasty chemicals" of the "stuff goes boom" variety) are perfectly safe as long as they are handled with due care. Granted, "due care" may mean "by a remote-operated robot in an explosion-proof box." But that is not an insurmountable hurdle for an industrial assembly line.

The problem is that a lot of chemicals have never been adequately studied to determine what "due care" means. And, of course, that even when they have been adequately studied, there's always a fucker somewhere who cuts corners on due diligence because he's cheap or lazy and the fine is not very big. But that is a law enforcement problem, just like muggers with kitchen knives are a problem with muggers, not a problem with kitchen knives.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Aug 5th, 2009 at 06:29:27 PM EST
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