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Diesel Fumes Cause Cancer, Health Care and Product Liability

by Barry Hyman, published

The World Health Organization recently reported that diesel fumes cause cancer. Why are we acknowledging now, in 2012, something that could easily have been predicted decades ago? Part of the problem is our gridlocked political system which prevents meaningful change and discussion. Independent voters and those not locked into the two parties can play a major role in reforming health care. This also ties into the economic system as a whole.

Cancer is big business. Look at the numbers. 1.6 million Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2012.  Let’s say, just as a ballpark guesstimate, that $100,000 changes hands as each cancer patient goes through the system. That’s $160 billion a year.

But there’s another important economic factor at work here. Look at the tobacco companies. If somebody figures out that a particular product causes cancer and can prove it, then billions of dollars can change hands yet again in lawsuits…

Corporations too often can have two agendas to consider. Try to corner some of the cash cow by selling cancer drugs, scans, prevention, insurance etc and at the same time, try to minimize and conceal the extent to which products sold by corporations cause cancer.

That’s the part they don’t want you to think about. No one really knows what causes a specific case cancer. Even if general epidemiological trends have been charted, no one can say for sure exactly what causes any particular individual to get cancer, since we all are exposed to hundreds of different carcinogens every day, and even if the negative effects of one particular chemical have been proven, no one has the slightest idea what happens synergistically when a person ingests many different toxic chemicals at once. That last fact brings a lot of comfort to corporations because it means they are not liable - yet.

Big business sold you the carcinogens and the expensive scanner that gave you your diagnosis plus meds that cost $40,000 a month. Plus, they can prove in court – because they can afford better lawyers -- that your tumor was not caused by exhaust fumes.

For fifty years we have been taught to blame the victim. I’m told I have a 44% chance of getting cancer in my lifetime.  (And that must be true because I was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2009.)  577,000 Americans will die from cancer in 2012. One in four deaths in America is from cancer. But we blame the victims. They smoked too much, they drank too much, and they spent too much time out in the sun. It couldn’t have been caused by pollution or by toxic chemicals in the environment, or by radiation from nuclear weapons and nuclear power, or by toxic consumer products. If patients knew what was killing them, they might sue or demand major changes in the entire medical system.

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