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Published: Friday, 6/17/2011

Cancer culprits

A NEW federal report warns that common consumer products that contain formaldehyde cause cancer, and that products containing styrene might do so. Incredibly, the study's release was delayed for four years by lobbying from the chemical industry.

Formaldehyde is used in hair-straightening products and nail polish. It is also found in plywood and particle board, and in materials used in mortuaries. Exposure to formaldehyde is reported to cause asthma, burning eyes, headaches, nosebleeds and vomiting, as well as increased incidence of cancer.

The new report on carcinogens, from the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health, says that styrene, another chemical in wide use, may cause cancer. It is particularly dangerous to workers who make products that include it, such as bathtubs, boats, and Styrofoam. People also can be exposed to styrene through tobacco smoke, the report adds.

The shameful, years-long delay in the release of the report was the result of lobbying of the Obama and Bush administrations and Congress by the chemical industry. The president of the American Chemistry Council is a former member of Congress.

If the federal report is correct, it is bad enough that the chemical industry evidently was prepared for years to increase Americans' likelihood of contracting cancer through some of its products. It is even worse that it made strenuous efforts to suppress that information in the name of preserving or enhancing profits.



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