Immediate action needed to prevent 'industrial manslaughter,' says expert

Jeanne Mager Stellman, PhD, professor and chair of environmental and occupational health sciences at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, told the President's Cancer Panel that government policy and a "lack of the will to prevent occupational disease, death and disability" are responsible for the failure to control cancer-causing chemicals in the workplace. Meeting in East Brunswick, New Jersey on Sep 16, the panel heard Dr. Stellman say that decades have been wasted examining the problem of carcinogens while not doing enough to stem their threat to public health.

Dr. Stellman attributed the successful campaign to remove the threat of asbestos more to health advocates such as the late Irving Selikoff and trade unions rather than togovernment action. PCBs, on the other hand – while widely considered hazardous – are still a major threat to workers because few have championed efforts to control them and the government has not followed its own mandates to protect the public.

Dr. Stellman said, "While we as a society have been debating and delaying and have been occupying ourselves with setting up straw man arguments about incidence and attributable risk, more and more chemicals have been introduced into commerce and have remained largely unmonitored and unregulated."

Dr. Stellman told the panel that the time for discussion is past if we are to stop "ongoing industrial manslaughter."

Source: SUNY Downstate Medical Center