Benzene and worker cancers: ‘An American tragedy’


December 4, 2014 | The Center for Public Integrity | Kristen Lombardi

Benzene is a known carcinogen and a naturally occurring component in crude oil. It is used to make a whole host of household products, including gasoline, and is a significant source of toxic exposure for workers in the oil industry. The EPA recently estimated that some 5 million Americans — not counting workplace exposures — have heightened cancer risks from benzene and 68 other carcinogens in air pollution from oil refineries. What the Center for Public Integrity has found, through investigations into 20,000 pages of documents from the petrochemical industry, is a strategy designed to undercut scientific studies into the risks of benzene. As CPI puts it:  The documents “comprise an industry playbook to counteract growing evidence of benzene’s toxic effects.”

The story chronicles a multi-million dollar scientific research effort, funded by industry and by the American Petroleum Institute, to independently study benzene’s health risks. The scientific research was specifically designed to “protect member company interests,” according to the documents obtained by CPI.

The industry refutes the claims that their own scientific research was biased towards minimizing impacts, but defends the studies saying their “scientific integrity was not compromised.”