Should the mining industry get sneakpeaks at cancer research?

A mining industry coalition demands to see a study on diesel fumes and cancer before its publication next month. Wary of spin, the government scientists think the public should see it first.
Written by Melissa Mahony, Contributor

Government scientists are about to publish a huge study possibly linking lung cancer and the breathing of diesel exhaust in confined spaces. The research, which began 15 years ago, evaluates 12,000 miners exposed to tiny particulates within diesel fumes emitted by machinery in 8 different mines.

According to The Center for Public Integrity, the Methane Awareness Resource Group Diesel Coalition (MARG), a mining industry alliance that has fought the study since its inception, wants access to the research before it's published next month in the journal Annals of Occupational Hygiene.

A federal judge has twice ruled (once in 2001 and again recently) in MARG's favor, granting them permission to preview the study 90 days before publication. The researchers, from the National Cancer Institute and the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) don't want to let them see it.

The possible fear? That the industry group will prepare a spin campaign denouncing the study's results before they are released to the public.

The Center for Public Integrity, an investigative journalism outlet, reports:

“For whatever purpose—whether for litigation, the establishment of public policy, or the establishment of regulatory policy—our goal is to get the information and open the door and let the participants and the public see what the conclusions are based on the science,” Chajet said [Henry Chajet, Patton Boggs lobbyist and lawyer for MARG].

But some critics suspect an ulterior motive. Industry scientists, they say, could do their own analysis of the government data and produce papers that minimize the risks posed by diesel. "The bottom line is that this is scientific information in a draft form, and to have that released just provides a superhighway for industry to manipulate those research results,” Grifo said [Francesca Grifo of the The Union of Concerned Scientists].

Regulations limiting diesel exposure to workers, proposed by MSHA and OSHA, have already been in effect since 2008 and likely are not threatened by whatever the industry groups makes of the research. There might be the possibility, however, of companies preventing future workplace pollution restrictions or possible litigation from injured workers.

Classifying diesel exhaust as a potential carcinogen, the NIOSH website currently reads:

Currently, underground miners can be exposed to over 100 times the typical environmental concentration of diesel exhaust and over 10 times that measured in other workplaces. In addition, miner exposure to diesel emissions promises to become more widespread as diesel equipment becomes more popular within the mining community.

Image: NIOSH
: AOL Politics Daily

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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