Don’t Wait for Cancer!

October 13th, 2003

To the Editor,

There is a flaw in the issues brought before the courts by victims of cancer due to industrial contaminants. Mr. Menn’s article, (“Case Targets High-Tech Manufacturing“, 10/13/03), flirts with this truth, quoting two litigants who suffered signs of neurological damage (e.g. vision disturbances, headaches, blackouts) while still employed at IBM. They were handling many toxic materials common to the workplace and home settings, including xylene, benzene and acetone.

The public needs to recognize when clinical signs of poisoning occur in any setting as most doctors are not trained in toxicology. The default diagnosis for illness of indeterminate origin is always stress. Stress is not causing three out of ten workers to become disabled prior to their retirement years. It does not explain why so many live with chronic pain and illness which reduces productivity and destroys quality of life.

Only we can change this by demanding full disclosure of all ingredients for any materials we handle or consume in advance of their use. Data on harmful effects is readily available once one knows the name of the chemical in question. However, employers and landlords need not inform us in advance about the use of toxic materials in our vicinity. Our labelling laws do not require disclosure of toxic ingredients (e.g. fragrances can contain toluene among many other toxicants). Even your box of Bounce dryer sheets may sport a warning not to dry children’s clothing with them as it increases flammability of garments. The box fails to mention the fact that same unspecified ingredient will enter your lungs during drying cycles when heating renders it airborne.

Many chemicals are carcinogens, yes, but they also cause us immediate harm in respiratory and neurological functions. Solvents can cause anemia and insecticides lead to severe gastrointestinal symptoms in early stages of poisoning. Safer alternatives to most of these items are available as well as stronger protections (e.g. respirator masks, suits) against harm when their use is essential to a particular purpose.

As Dr. Sherry Rogers points out, a headache is not a sign of an aspirin deficiency. Learn what is around you and determine if it might be implicated in your symptoms. Don’t wait for cancer or irrevocable brain and immune system damage to occur. Nip chemical poisoning in the bud early!

Barbara Rubin

Categories: L.A. Times

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  1. Barbara Dingwall

    Exactly! Thanks, Barbara. I’m looking for a rebuttal to a chain e-mail going around about the benefits of putting Bounce everywhere… from killing ants to freshening your sleeping bags. What’s in the things, is what I want to know. I stopped using them a long time ago because of what I suspect they might do to our health.

    I’m SO happy to have found great alternative products, for all my home and bodily needs.

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