Acceptance speech – Samuel Epstein

The prohibition of new carcinogenic products, reduction of toxins in use, and right-to-know laws - these are among the legislative proposals which could reverse the cancer epidemic.


Madam Speaker, Honourable representatives of the Swedish Parliament, representatives of the RLA foundation, fellow Awardees, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to take this opportunity of thanking the Right Livelihood Award Foundation for their much appreciated award for obvious personal reasons, and also for the honor afforded me in addressing you.

Sweden and other Nordic countries have long been pioneers in their strong commitment to social justice and responsibility and, as such, have been and remain role models for all civilized nations. Reflecting these considerations, I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to share with you my deep concerns on cancer as one of the fastest growing mass modern scourges, and to propose a course of action which would be likely to reverse this trend.

We are losing the war against cancer. Over recent decades, the age-standardized incidence of cancer in industrialized nations has escalated to epidemic proportions, with lifetime cancer risks in the U.S. of 1 in 2 for men and 1 in 3 for women. The overall increase of all cancers in the U.S. from 1950-1995 was 55% of which lung cancer, primarily attributed to smoking, accounted for about 22%. Over the same period, non-smoking cancers increased as follows: prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma, 200%; testis cancer, 110%; brain and nervous system cancer, 80%; and childhood cancer, 10%. Overall incidence trends in Sweden are similar to but generally lower than in the U.S. and most other industrial countries.

Over two decades from 1974 onwards, the average annual increases for all cancers in the U.S. and Sweden were 1.6% and 0.7%, respectively; however, the corresponding increase for some cancers, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in men, was similar in both nations, 3.6% and 2.8%, respectively.

Meanwhile, our ability to treat and “cure” most cancers, with the notable exception of some relatively rare cancers, has remained virtually unchanged for decades.

The modern cancer epidemic cannot be explained away on the basis of increasing longevity as incidence and mortality rates are adjusted (age-standardized) in cancer registries to reflect this trend. Nor can the epidemic be largely attributed to faulty personal lifestyle factors. While smoking is clearly the single most important cause of cancer, the incidence of lung cancer in men, but not women, is declining due to reduction in smoking, while the incidence of a wide range of non-smoking cancers is increasing at proportionately greater rates. Nor can the role of high fat diets be incriminated as a major cause of cancer, in sharp contrast to heart disease.

Illustratively, not only are breast cancer rates in Mediterranean countries low despite diets with up to 40% olive oil fat, but also epidemiological studies over the last two decades have consistently failed to establish any causal relationship between breast cancer and the consumption of  fat per se. Finally, increasing cancer rates cannot be attributed to genetic factors which, at most, are implicated in well under 10% of all cancers, and as the genetics of human populations cannot possibly have changed within the last few decades.

What then is the predominant cause of the modern cancer epidemic? The answer is based on a strong body of scientific evidence incriminating the role of run-away industrial technologies, particularly the petrochemical, whose explosive growth since the 1940s has, to varying degrees in different nations, outstripped the development of social control infrastructures and mechanisms. Resultingly, our total environment – air, water, consumer and medicinal products, and the workplace – has become pervasively contaminated with a wide range of often persistent industrial carcinogens. As a consequence, the public-at-large has been and continues to be unknowingly exposed to avoidable carcinogens from conception to death.

How have those institutions charged with responsibility for fighting the war against cancer responded to this crisis? In the U.S., the predominant complex of responsible institutions, known as the “cancer establishment”, is comprised of the governmental National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the private “charity” the American Cancer Society (ACS), together with their national net-work of funded university scientists and cancer centers. The cancer establishment has massive resources at its disposal.

The 1998 budget of the NCI is $2.6 billion, up from $220 million in 1971 when President Nixon declared the “War Against Cancer” in response to cancer establishment pressures and demands for increased funding with the highly misleading promise that this would enable the conquest of cancer by 1987; the NCI is now aggressively lobbying to increase its budget still further, to $5 billion by 2003. The annual budget of the ACS is about $380 million.

The policies and priorities of the cancer establishment are narrowly fixated on damage control – diagnosis and treatment – and basic molecular research with, not always benign, indifference to cancer prevention. For the ACS, this indifference reaches the level of actual negativism. These and other concerns relating to fiscal malpractice have led the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the authoritative U.S. charity watch dog, to charge that the ACS is “more interested in accumulating wealth than saving lives”.

NCI’s budgetary allocation for occupational cancer, the most avoidable of all cancers, which according to conservative estimates is responsible for about 10% of all U.S. cancer deaths, is only 1%; budgetary allocations for all other primary prevention activities, smoking apart, are under 5%.

The establishment’s professional mindset and priorities are compounded by disturbing conflicts of  interest, particularly for the ACS, with the cancer drug and other industries. As NCI’s previous director recently admitted, the NCI has become “what amounts to a governmental pharmaceutical company”. The establishment’s mindsets are further illustrated by a succession of widely publicized misleading claims for the discovery and effectiveness of new “miracle” or “magic bullet” cancer drugs, claims which rarely have ever been subsequently substantiated.

Most seriously, the run-away cancer establishment has failed to provide Congress, regulatory agencies and the public with available scientific information, and other relatively inaccessible information, on a wide range of avoidable carcinogenic exposures. As a result, corrective legislative and regulatory action has still not yet been taken, and the public has been and still is denied its right-to-know of such information and the opportunity to take action to reduce their risks of cancer.

At the same time, the cancer establishment, relying on obsolete evidence and biased claims by indentured academic and institutional apologists, still seeks to explain away escalating cancer rates on the virtually exclusive basis of faulty lifestyle or “blame-the-victim” factors.

Based on detailed and fully documented published analysis of such evidence,* I have reached the conclusion that the cancer establishment bears a heavy burden of responsibility for losing the winnable war against cancer. In this serious charge, I have been supported by an ad hoc coalition of some 65 leading national U.S. experts in public health, preventive medicine and cancer prevention, including past directors of three major federal agencies. These concerns are all the more serious in view of the strong influence that U.S. cancer establishment policies exert on those of Canada, the U.K., and other nations worldwide.

We are also clearly faced with an unparalleled crisis of international proportions and one which will be further exacerbated with a growing industrialization of those E.U. countries with less well developed social infrastructures than Sweden. In this overall context, I would like to offer for your consideration the following legislative proposals on the following topics: prohibition of the authorisation of new carcinogenic products; reduction of toxics in use; right-to-know; expert committees and regulatory agencies; white collar crime; and  independent citizen safety agency.

These proposals, if adopted in some measure, could well reverse the cancer epidemic and serve as a prototype for the E.U. and other nations worldwide.


Under the terms of the 1948 U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to life and its corrolary right to health are the first and most important of all fundamental rights internationally recognized by almost all nations. Thus, explicit legislation is needed to mandate that, in practice, considerations of life and health take absolute precedence over economics and trade.

The first line of defense against risks from avoidable carcinogenic, and otherwise toxic, exposures, is an absolute prohibition of further increasing the burden of current exposures due to the authorisation of new candidate carcinogenic products and processes. Such a prohibition is based on the obvious principles that preventing new risks and that zero risk policies are essential for public and environmental protection. Such policies are clearly preferable to deliberately accepting risks and then attempting to “manage” them by reducing exposures to levels claimed to be “acceptable” by industry or regulatory agencies. Even recognizing the sovereign rights of each nation to set its own levels of sanitary protection, zero risk policies, in general, should therefore constitute the standard principle and not the rare exception.

In this connection, it may be noted that President Jacques Chirac, at a recent meeting of the World Conservation Union, proposed increasing the powers of the United Nations Environment Program to avoid sovereignty disputes that hamper the global fight against pollution. President Chirac warned that countries around the world were holding on to an outdated idea of sovereignty, while environmental contamination ignored national borders.

The precautionary principle, applied in this context would require that it is the categorical responsibility of industry to establish unequivocally the safety of any new candidate product and process, and thus ensure that they do not pose potential human or environmental risks. This principle further absolves citizens and regulatory agencies from the heavy burden for proving risks in response to industry challenges, and allows banning of suspect products in circumstances of scientific uncertainty.


The second line of defense against avoidable carcinogenic exposures is the reduction or phase-out of toxics in use in the wide range of petrochemical and other carcinogenic products and processes already established in commerce. Strategies based on toxics use reduction – phasing out the manufacture, use and disposal of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic chemicals, coupled with their replacement by safe alternative technologies – are not only practical but cost-effective. The effectiveness of such strategies clearly depends on the establishment of an explicitly defined strict schedule for the shortest feasible phase-out time, and for monitoring industry compliance.

It should be stressed that toxics use reduction is based on the principle of risk prevention in sharp contrast to “risk management” strategies strongly favored by industry and regulatory agencies. Risk management accepts the inevitability of risk from industrial processes and products while claiming that such risks can be managed to levels variously described as “acceptable (or) insignificant (or) minimal”. These claims are derived from highly dubious, if not, manipulated, quantitative risk assessment mathematical formulae shaped by predetermined financial or regulatory interests claiming to predict minimal deaths anticipated from particular carcinogenic exposures.

Following a well organized political campaign by environmental groups, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts unanimously passed the “Toxics Use Reduction Act” in 1989. The Act is a specific form of pollution prevention that focuses on reducing the use of toxic chemicals and generation of hazardous waste by improving and redesigning industrial products and processes. The Toxics Use Reduction Institute of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, played an important role in developing the Act by providing education, training, research on new materials and processes, a technical library and information source, and specialized laboratories for evaluating alternative safe technologies.

The achievements of this Act include: reducing the generation of toxic wastes from 1989 to 1997 by 50%, by reducing toxics use by 20%; establishing toxics use reduction as the preferred means for achieving compliance with federal and state environmental statutes; promoting reduction in the production and use of toxic chemicals; enhancing and strengthening the enforcement of existing environmental laws; promoting coordination between state agencies administering toxics-related programs; and sustaining and promoting the competitiveness of Massachusetts industry.

Such initiatives were strongly endorsed in my February 4, 1992 Washington D.C. press conference and release on behalf of a coalition of 65 leading experts in public health, preventive medicine and carcinogenesis. Among our recommendations for reforming the U.S. cancer establishment and reorienting its priorities to cancer prevention, major emphasis was directed to toxics use reduction.

“In close cooperation with key regulatory agencies and industry, the NCI should initiate large scale research programs to develop noncarcinogenic products and processes as alternatives to those currently based on chemical and physical  carcinogens. This program should also include research on the development of economic incentives  for the reduction or phase out of the use of industrial carcinogens, coupled with economic disincentives for their continued use, especially when appropriate noncarcinogenic alternatives are available.”

The Massachusetts Act could well serve as a useful model for EU, besides national U.S., legislation. The active interest of industry in such initiatives could well be encouraged by granting tax incentives for the urgent development of safe alternatives to conventional toxic-based conventional technologies, and tax penalties for failure to adopt available safe alternative technologies.


The right-to-know is, or should be, an inalienable and fundamental democratic principle with the possible exception of national security concerns. Claims of confidentiality and trade secrecy by industry are often a serious deterrent to the recognition of potential risks from carcinogenic and otherwise toxic products. There is thus an urgent need to develop international rules to restrict claims of confidentiality to what is unarguably essential to protect validated proprietary information, exclusive of  any health considerations.

All other information concerning, in particular, the carcinogenic and otherwise toxic risks of a product, drug or process must be automatically and fully released and made fully available to the public.

The greatest incentive to toxics use reduction – phasing out the manufacture, use and disposal of industrial carcinogens – is public of knowledge of their identity and routes of avoidable exposure, particularly when safe alternatives are available. Right-to-know initiatives are thus among the most practical and potent political strategies in the war against cancer. Limited steps in this direction have already been developed in the U.S., Europe, and Sweden with its recent requirement for labelling genetically modified foods.

Such initiatives should be comprehensively extended to all avoidable, but generally undisclosed, carcinogenic exposures, and also to information on policies and priorities of all public and private cancer research institutions.

It must be stressed, however, that labelling per se is inadequate unless accompanied by an explicit “Red Flag” warning of recognized cancer and other health and environmental risks, and also of poorly defined or potential risks, such as is the case with genetically modified soy bean food ingredients. Furthermore, labelling must not be used as a justification for the authorisation of new candidate carcinogens or for toxic use reduction of carcinogenic products already in commerce.

A. Consumer Products

I recently co-authored a book presenting a comprehensive U.S. survey of some 4,000 brand name and other consumer products, many manfactured by mainstream multinational industries.*

Based on information buried in government and industry files, or relatively inaccessible in the scientific and technology literature, the book provides fully documented details and reader friendly information on the carcinogenic and other hazards of conventional consumer products, and, as importantly, on alternative safe non-mainstream organic products.

Mainstream industry consumer products – foods and beverages, cosmetics and toiletries, and household products including home, lawn and garden pesticides – contain a wide range of undisclosed carcinogens, ingredients, contaminants and precursors, which pose major, but generally unrecognized, avoidable risks of cancer. While public release of this information was widely criticized by many industries and their trade associations, none have successfully challenged its accuracy.

Examples of carcinogens in 12 common consumer products, “The Dirty Dozen”, none labelled with any cancer warning, are listed in Table 1. The gravity of these risks is illustrated by the following examples:

Beef frankfurters: Children eating up to about a dozen each month are at 4-fold risk of brain cancer and 7-fold risk of leukemia.

Talc: Women, in the reproductive years, regularly dusting their genital area with talc after bathing, showering or bideting are at about 3-fold risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Permanent hair color: Women using permanent or semi-permanent black or dark brown hair dyes are at increased risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, chronic leukemia, and also breast cancer.

In fact, there is growing evidence that the use of these hair dyes accounts for about 20% of all non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas in U.S. women. Consumer product legislation is well overdue.

All foods, grown with the application of carcinogenic pesticides should be clearly labelled with a cancer warning, the name of each carcinogenic pesticide and the concentrations of its residues. Of particular concern are the high residues of multiple carcinogenic pesticides in grains, vegetables and fruit: Recent estimates indicate that by the age of one, cancer risks from residues of just 8 common pesticides in 20 infant foods exceed lifetime “acceptable” cancer risks estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The complete chemical composition of all cosmetics and toiletries should be clearly labelled, and all carcinogenic ingredients, contaminants and precursors should be identified together with a cancer warning against each. The complete composition of all household cleaning and other products, including home, lawn and garden pesticides, should also be clearly labelled, together with cancer  warnings for each listed carcinogenic ingredient.

Consumer product legislation should require data and affidavits in support of claims of safety for organic or other products. Consideration should also be given to the granting of tax incentives to the manufacturers of safe alternative products.

B. Prescription Drugs

A recent survey of 241 high volume U.S. prescription drugs reported that nearly half posed cancer risks based on carcinogenicity tests designed by their manufacturers to prove safety. Many carcinogenic drugs have been identified at low test dosages, near or at therapeutic levels. These risks are compounded by the fact that carcinogenic drugs are often administered individually or in various combinations to tens of millions of patients, sometimes for decades and starting in childhood. One leading authority has claimed that prescription drugs may pose the single most important class of unrecognized and avoidable carcinogenic risks for the entire U.S. population.

To argue that such risks are more than justified by their very real benefits is to posit a false dilemma, especially in view of the fact that patients are rarely affirmatively and explicitly informed of these risks, and of the availability of safer and effective alternatives. Legislation is urgently required to ensure that the pharmaceutical industry provides clear and explicit information on carcinogenic prescription and non-prescription drugs which should also be labelled with clear warnings of such risks. Physicians should also be required to endorse these warnings and provide patients with information on safe and effective alternatives.

C. Occupational Cancer

In addition to the use of controlled production and closed system technologies and other control systems including local exhaust ventilation, workers and their representatives have inalienable rights to be given full information on the identity of all carcinogens, including raw materials, intermediates, impurities and final products, to which they are exposed by explicit labelling and posting. Additionally, they are entitled to quantitative information on levels of inhalation and cutaneous exposure for each carcinogen. All such information should be made available to workers on a daily basis, and also reported to the responsible governmental authorities.

It is of interest to note that in contrast to conservative estimates that occupation accounts for about 10% of annual U.S. cancers deaths, Swedish incidence estimates are significantly lower, about 4% for male workers.

D. Environmental Cancer

Citizens are entitled to full access to information from local and national government on their carcinogenic exposures from air and water. Such information is likely to encourage industry to reduce environmental emissions and discharges of carcinogenic and toxic pollutants and also to encourage more stringent governmental regulation.

Every regional municipal authority should be required to provide consumers with a complete list of carcinogenic contaminants and their concentrations in drinking water together with each water bill. Similarly, every chemical, mining and nuclear industry should be required to disclose, to local communities and regional and national governments, a complete listing of all carcinogens, intermediates, and products they use, process, manufacture, and dispose. They should also be required to disclose the amounts of each carcinogen they discharge into surrounding air and water.

No industry should be allowed to operate unless it provides ongoing quantitative information on smokestack and other atmospheric emissions of carcinogens in the air of its perimeter and in the local community.

E. Cancer Institutions

All institutions, – governmental, universities receiving government or other tax-exempt funds, and tax-exempt charities, – involved in cancer research should be required to provide a clear and audited budgetary statement defining their sources of funding, and expenditures on basic molecular research, diagnosis and treatment, and prevention.

Budgetary information on prevention should specify allocations for the following: research primarily directed to investigating avoidable causes of cancer; research on all possible risk factors for each type of cancer whose incidence has increased substantially over recent decades; research, on cancer risks from carcinogens identified in well designed animal tests and/or listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer; activities with regard to the development of a comprehensive registry for all carcinogens to which general populations and populations at high risk may be exposed; and outreach activities providing Parliament, governmental agencies and the public with available information on all avoidable carcinogenic exposures and actions that may be taken to reduce or avoid such exposures.

Legislation to ensure full accountability of all cancer institutions directly and indirectly involved in cancer research and other related activities is long overdue. Legislation is also needed to ensure that cancer institutions direct the highest priorities, with minimally half their budgets specifically allocated to activities directly related to primary cancer prevention. Examination of the track record of the U.S. cancer establishment makes it clear that only drastic reforms of their policies, priorities and leadership will achieve such objectives, and belatedly restore an overdue sense of mission to winning the losing war against cancer.


Key governmental decisions and policies are generally determined by recommendations of designated expert scientific committees and regulatory bodies.  Their independence, integrity and expertise are thus matters of critical concern.

The U.S. 1972 Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that the composition of advisory committees reflects balanced and qualified representation of all concerned interests, and that meetings must be publicized in advance and open to the public.  However, in practice, some of these requirements are honored more in the breach than in the observance.

In a recent U.S. and Canadian challenge against the E.U. ban on hormonal meat before the World Trade Organization(WTO), I served together with other leading scientists as consultant to the E.U. in defense of its ban which was, in essence and for most part, upheld by the WTO Appellate Body.

Apart from documenting the scientific evidence on the cancer and other risks from high residues of unmonitored sex hormones in meat, I analyzed the reports and composition of the relevant FAO/WHO committees, particularly the 1988 “Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives” (JECFA) on whose authority the U.S. and Canadian legal action was largely based, who had all claimed that hormonal meat was safe. On the basis of this analysis, I concluded:

“The membership of these committees reflects disproportionate representation of U.S. senior regulatory officials and of veterinary and food scientists, with minimal if any involvement of independent experts in preventive medicine, public health and carcinogenesis. The European Commission Scientific Conference of November 29-December 1, 1995 also reflects such imbalanced representation. While Conference participation of ‘scientists directly employed’ by industry was ‘generally refused’ no apparent attempt was made to identify or exclude industry consultants, contractees or grantees. Furthermore, the Conference based its findings and conclusions largely on unpublished industry data. As admitted by Steering Committee member Dr. F.W. Kenny, particularly in view of the confidentially of these data, industry is capable of giving good results, but they will not necessarily do so.”

FAO/WHO committees thus clearly represent a sanitized front for powerful  industry interests and pre-determined regulatory decisions, rather than sound science and consumer safety. Similar concerns relate to the February 1998 JECFA committee report and that of the September 1998 Codex Committee on “Veterinary Drugs in Foods” report which both concluded that rBST milk is safe, in spite of strong published evidence to the contrary.

Clearly legislation is needed to require that expert scientific committees, such as JECFA, and regulatory agencies, such as the Codex Alimentarius, International Office of Epizootics, Food Agency Organization, and WHO/ILO, dealing with health and environmental concerns conform to basic requirements to ensure unbiased and sound scientific findings and appropriate subsequent regulatory decisions.

Examination of the structure of the WHO/ILO committee on abestos over recent years is illustrative of extreme pro-industry representation, bias and reckless indifference to occupational safety and health. Past experience clearly confirms that scientists appointed to expert committees exclusively by administrative or regulatory agencies are rarely, if ever, impartial and objective, apart from serious questions on their competence, qualifications and standing in the independent scientific community.

Absolute rights should be given by law to grant consumer, environmental, occupational, cancer prevention and other concerned NGO’s full membership on scientific evaluation and regulatory committees. They should also be given full right to participate in the evaluation and selection of scientists performing risk assessment, and also financial support to appoint their own experts, on an ad hoc basis, to work with scientific and regulatory committees charged with safety evaluation of industrial products and processes, medicinal drugs, consumer products, and emerging technologies, such as GMO’s.

Similar and equally rigorous legislation is needed for executive, advisory and scientific committees of all cancer institutions, governmental, charitable and academic, to ensure full accountability and transparency of their deliberations, and to ensure that maximal priority be directed to cancer prevention, rather than virtually exclusively to damage control – diagnosis and treatment – and basic molecular research.

Transparency of all scientific and regulatory proceedings should further be ensured by providing  advanced public information on scheduled committee meetings which should be open without restriction to the public.


There is an overwhelming disparity between the full force of criminal law and punishment directed at perpetrators of theft, property damage, or personal violence and the lenient civil proceedings against managers and executives of industries and their consultants who knowingly manipulate, distort or suppress information on the environmental, occupational and consumer hazards of their products and processes.

As Ralph Nader has aptly commented, there are two standards of justice in modern industrialized society: “jail for crime in the streets, but bail for crime in the suites”. This flagrant inequity in our dual system of justice is exacerbated by major socio-economic differences between the two classes of offenders, notably opportunity, education, income, and social standing. Furthermore, the obvious one-to-one direct and immediate impact of blue collar crime on a single victim is generally in striking contrast with white collar industry crime, whose effects are largely sanitized by the non-personal and indirect relationship between the criminal and multiple victims, often numbering in the many thousands, and also by the usual long latency between crime and effect.

About two decades ago, Congressman John Conyers, the distinguished Democratic chairman of the U.S. Congress House Committee on the Judiciary, invited me to assist in drafting legislation and to testify on white collar crime, as defined by “nondisclosure of certain matters by certain business entities and personnel”, in relation to environmental and health concerns. Congressman Conyers’ bill (HR 4973), which urged criminal penalties including imprisonment, for such corporate crimes, was presented to Congress on July 26, 1979. However, its passage was blocked by Republican committee members, and has not since been reintroduced.

In testimony on this proposed legislation, I stated:

“In my activities in the interface between science and public policy, I have had occasion to undertake detailed investigations of the regulatory data base of a wide range of consumer products and industrial chemicals. These investigations have revealed a pattern of constraints, including gross negligence, manipulation, distortion, suppression and destruction of data, which are so frequent as to preclude their dismissal as exceptional aberrations. Besides the businesses concerned, involved in the generation and interpretation of such constrained data are a complex of commercial testing and consulting laboratories and organizations and academic consultants, supported by a network of industry front organizations and quasi-professional societies. Such constrained data have served as the basis for the past and continuing successful strategies of some segments of industry which have minimized  or denied risk to workers and the public-at-large, and have maximized product or process efficacy and the costs and difficulties of compliance. Such strategies, reflecting apparent preoccupations with short term economic growth to the detriment of considerations of long term adverse public health and environmental impacts, have resulted in a burgeoning toll of cancer and other preventable diseases.
    “These grave charges, including ‘knowing (acts of) nondisclosure’, are not made lightly or speculatively. They pose fundamental questions of legal equity, besides reflecting the subversion of democratic decision making processes by special interests.
    “The thrust of this bill is consistent with the finest traditions of American business. It offers business the timely opportunity to explicitly reassert its highest ethical standards and, by policing itself, to preclude or limit the need for further regulatory policing. Clearly, the bill imposes no unreasonable restraints on commerce or on technological innovation, but merely seeks to encourage honest disclosure of ‘lethal defects’, and to deter and punish those who knowingly commit criminal acts on ‘nondisclosure’. In so doing, the bill will discourage the introduction into commerce of products and processes with ‘lethal defects’, with attendant major economic, dislocation following their subsequent withdrawal once these defects become belatedly recognized. Successful self-policing by business will also act as a major brake to burgeoning product liability suits, such as those we are now experiencing for asbestos products. Finally, the bill offers a unique opportunity to restore the eroding public confidence in big business, in general, and the chemical industry, in particular, and thus to reverse the growing and nationally damaging trend of polarization and confrontation between business, and the general public and labor. Recognition of these various considerations and the overall favorable impact of this bill on business has been clearly recognized by Irving S. Shapiro, Chairman of E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co.who, speaking on behalf of the Business Roundtable, agreed in hearings of September 13, 1979 that the same standard of criminal law should be applied to business executives and corporations as for the general public and who, with the Justice Department, on November 28, approved a tough package of white collar crime proposals.”

In the absence of such legislative disincentives, environmental and health and safety white collar crime has continued unabated and extended into global markets.

Such misconduct which I have investigated over the last decade, and published in peer reviewed scientific journals or otherwise publicized, include: suppression and manipulation by Velsicol Chemical Company of the carcinogenic and other chronic toxic effects of the pesticides chlordane and heptachlor which have been extensively used for termite treatment of wood; Monsanto’s suppression and denial of clear evidence of adverse veterinary effects of their biosynthetic bovine milk hormone, rBST, and of excess levels of a growth factor, IGF-1, in hormonal milk which poses serious cancer and other risks to consumers; the undisclosed cancer risks of a wide range of consumer products; the cancer risks of silicone gel breast implants, particularly those coated with polyurethane foam, long-standing evidence of which has been suppressed by Dow Corning Company, Bristol-Myers Squibb and other manufacturers, besides by plastic surgeons and their professional associations; suppression by Eli Lilly Company of its own evidence on the grave risks of ovarian cancer from the agressively promoted and advertised new drug Evista (raloxifene) used for prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis.

In a 1990 publication in the International Journal of Health Services, “Corporate Crime: Why We Cannot Trust Industry Derived Safety Studies,” I detailed evidence illustrating the gravity and commonplace nature of these concerns and warned:

    “The control of pesticides, as of all synthetic chemicals, in most industrialized countries relies heavily or even entirely on safety data supplied by the manufacturers. Such a regulatory system can only be effective if the companies conducting and reporting the studies honestly disclose any adverse findings. The record shows, however, that all too often company executives and their scientists  nowingly suppress or mainpulate information that could affect the licensing and sale of their products”

Among the more recent examples of corporate misconduct is the reckless behavior of the tobacco industry, now the subject of multiple federal, state and civil litigation.

The most egregious of such conduct has been detailed in extensive secret  documents obtained from R.J. Reynolds’ Company in the course of civil litigation (Mangini vs R.J. Reynold et al.), and released to the public in January, 1998. The Company’s “Joe Camel” advertising campaign deliberately targeted underage smokers in calculated efforts to recruit lifetime adult smokers, most of whom start smoking or become addicted before the age of 18. With huge promotional expenditures from 1987-1998, R.J. Reynolds recruited about 560,000 underage U.S. smokers.

No criminal charges have yet been brought against this industry despite the devastating scourge of future disease and death anticipated from the Camel campaign, including cancers of the lung and other sites, cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic obstructive lung disease and adverse complications of pregnancy, apart from inflationary medical and loss of productivity costs.

Clearly, white collar environmental and health crime legislation is critically needed and well overdue worldwide. Congressman Conyers’ 1979 bill could well serve as a useful model.

Apart from criminal prosecution of white collar crime, legislation is also needed to empower citizens who become aware of undisclosed carcinogenic hazards in consumer products, to take civil action to enjoin their distribution and sale and receive as a benefit a share of past illegal sales together with some type of mandatory financial sanctions. Precedents for such initiatives have been embodied in the Proposition 65 law passed by California in 1986. Similar laws have been enacted in other U.S. states.


There are critical and long overdue needs for the establishment of an Independent Citizen Safety Agency.

This Agency should be given wide powers to police the effectiveness of current health and safety regulations, and to act as an intermediary between consumers, workers and their NGO’s on the one hand and regulatory authorities and industry on the other.

The Agency should be empowered with responsibilities including the following: the establishment of a clearinghouse for receiving and evaluating complaints from individual consumers, workers and their interest groups on all health related issues; collecting, systematizing and evaluating new scientific data and assessing their implications for current and proposed new regulations; publication and dissemination of  information, in explicit and simple language on possible health and environmental risks from regulated products and processes and also from the proposed authorization of new products and processes.

The Agency should be fully independent from the administration and industry and responsible only to Parliament. It should be established on the models of antitrust and cartel agencies with wide powers of investigation, decision making and fining of violators. The Agency should be a public watchdog, an Ombudsman with teeth, directly accountable only to Parliament.


Should  any of these proposals, in principle, meet with your interest and approval, I would be further honored to define them further with appropriate Parliamentary or other bodies.


1. Beef Frankfurters – (eg. Oscar Mayer Foods Corporation)

Unlabeled Toxic Ingredients – BENZENE HEXACHLORIDE, Carcinogenic; DACTHAL, Carcinogenic (Can be contaminated with dioxin).

Irritant. Strong Sensitizer; DIELDRIN, Carcinogenic; DDT, Carcinogenic; HEPTACHLOR, Carcinogenic. Neurotoxic. Reproductive Toxin;  HEXACHLOROBENZENE, Carcinogenic. Neurotoxic. Teratogenic; LINDANE, Carcinogenic. Neurotoxic. Damage to blood forming cells. HORMONES: Carcinogenic and feminizing;  ANTIBIOTICS: Some are carcinogenic, also cause allergies and drug resistance. Labeled Ingredient – NITRITE, Interacts with meat amines to form carcinogenic nitrosamines. NOTE: Also supportive evidence of relation to childhood cancer.


Nitrite-Free Natural Hotdogs (but with pesticide contaminants), or Tofu Franks

2. Whole Milk – (eg. Borden or Lucerne)

Unlabeled Toxic Ingredients – DDT, Carcinogenic; DIELDRIN, Carcinogenic; HEPTACHLOR, Carcinogenic. Neurotoxic. Reproductive Toxin; HEXACHLORO- BENZENE, Carcinogenic. Neurotoxic. Reproductive Toxin. ANTIBIOTICS: Some are carcinogenic, also cause allergies and drug resistance; RECOMBINANT BOVINE GROWTH HORMONE and IGF-1: Suggestive evidence of breast and colon cancer promotion.


Low or fat Milk or Horizon Organic Low or fat Milk

3. Talcum Powder – Johnson & Johnson. Inc.

Labeled Toxic Ingredient- TALC, Carcinogenic. Lung Irritant. NOTE:Also supportive evidence of relation to ovarian cancer.


Corn Starch – Johnson & Johnson, Inc.

4. Cover Girl Replenishing Natural Finish Make-Up (Foundation) – Procter & Gamble. Inc.

Labeled Toxic Ingredients – BHA, Carcinogenic; TALC, Carcinogenic. Lung Irritant; TITANIUM DIOXIDE, Carcinogenic;  TRIETHANOLAMINE-TEA), Interacts with nitrites to form carcinogenic Nitrosamines; LANOLIN, Often contaminated with DDT and other carcinogenic pesticides; PARABENS, Contact Dermatitis; FRAGRANCE, Wide range of unlabeled ingredients. Contact Dermatitis.


Max Factor Pan-Stik Ultra Creamy Make-Up- Max Factor, Inc.

5. Crest Tartar Control Toothpaste – Procter & Gamble. Inc.

Labeled Toxic Ingredients – FD&C BLUE #1, Carcinogenic; SACCHARIN,     Carcinogenic; FLUORIDE, Possible Carcinogen.


Tom’s of Maine Natural Toothpaste (Non-Fluoride) – Tom’s of Maine, Inc.

6. Alberto VO5 Conditioner (Essence of Neutral Henna) – Aibert-CuIver USA. Inc.

Labeled Toxic Ingredients – FORMALDEHYDE, Carcinogenic. Neurotoxic. Contact Dermatitis and Sensitizer; POLYSORBATE 80, Can be contaminated with the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane; FD&C RED #4, Carcinogenic; FRAGRANCE, Wide range of unlabeled ingredients. Contact Dermatitis.


Earth Preserv Hair Vitalizer (all scents) – Earth Preserv, Inc

7. Clairol Nice ‘n Easy (Permanent Haircolor) – Clairol. Inc.

Labeled Toxic Ingredients – QUATERNlUM-15, FormaIdehyde,Releaser. Carcinogenic. Neurotoxic. Contact Dermatitis and Sensitizer; DIETHANOLAMINE (DEA), Interacts with nitrites to form a carcinogenic nitrosamine; PHENYLENE-DIAMINES, Includes carcinogens and other ingredients inadequately tested for carcinogenicity. Contact Dermatitis; PROPYLENE GLYCOL, Contact Dermatitis; FRAGRANCE, Wide range of unlabeled ingredients. Contact Dermatitis.

NOTE: Also supportive evidence of relation to lymphoma, multiple myeloma and other cancers.


Igora Botanic – Schwarzkopf, Inc. or Logona Henna Black- Natur Kosmetik, GMB H. (Germany)

8. Ajax Cleanser – Colgate-Palmolive. Inc.

Unlabeled Toxic Ingredients – CRYSTALLINE SILICA, Carcinogenic. Eye, Skin and Lung Irritant; WASHING SODA,Caustic.

NOTE: Carcinogenicity of silica is admitted in 1994 Material Safety and Data Sheet (MSDS).

NOTE: Manufacturer claims to have reduced silica levels since 1993.


Comet Cleanser – Procter & Gamble, Inc.

9. Zud Heavy Duty Cleanser – Reckitt & Colman. Inc.

Unlabeled Toxic Ingredient – CRYSTALLINE SILICA, Carcinogenic. Eye, Skin and Lung Irritant.

NOTE: Carcinogenicity is denied in MSDS.


Comet Cleanser – Procter & Gamble, Inc.

10. LysoI Disinfectant Spray – Reckitt & Colman. Inc.

Labeled or Unlabeled Toxic Ingredient – ORTHOPHENYLPHENOL (OPP): Carcinogenic. Irritant.

NOTE: Carcinogenicity is denied in MSDS.


Airwick Stick Up – Reckitt & Colman, Inc.

11. Zocliac Cat & Dog Flea Collar – Sandoz Agro. Inc.

Labeled Toxic Ingredient – PROPOXUR, Carcinogenic. Neurotoxic.


Trader Joe’s Herbal Flea Collar for Cats or Dogs

12. Ortho Weed-B-Gon Lawn Weed Killer – Monsanto Co.

Labeled Ingredient – SODIUM 2,4-DICHLOROPHENOXYACETATE (2,4-D), Carcinogenic. Neurotoxic. Reproductive Toxin.

NOTE: Also supportive evidence of relation to lymphoma, soft tissue sarcoma and other cancers.


Organic pesticides
* Epstein, “The Politics Of  Cancer Revisited”, 1998, East Ridge Press, Box 48, Fremont Center,  New York 12736: Website, www.preventcancer.com
* Steinman & Epstein, “The Safe Shoppers Bible”, 1995, Macmillan, USA.