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The Alarming Link Between the Ohio Train Derailment’s Vinyl Chloride Leak and Smart Meters: A Mercenary Scientist Dictating Public Policy

By Patricia Burke of Safe Tech International, Image courtesy Floris Freshman

As concern grows for East Palestine, Ohio following the train derailment, news headlines are reporting adverse health effects on the liver associated with vinyl chloride. The liver may not be the only concern.

Vinyl Chloride and the Liver

CBS news reported, What is vinyl chloride? Here are some of the hazardous materials on the train that derailed in Ohio.

Vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen, according to the National Cancer Institute. The colorless manmade gas is used to make polyvinyl chloride, commonly referred to as PVC, a type of hard plastic resin. According to the Institute, the gas is linked to “an increased risk of a rare form of liver cancer” known as hepatic angiosarcoma. That type of cancer accounts for only 2% of liver tumors, and according to a 2018 journal publication, is “exceptionally deadly.” The average life expectancy for those who are diagnosed is just 10 months.”

Buzzfeed News published, Here’s Why People Are So Concerned About The Ohio Train Derailment “Residents are clamoring for answers in the aftermath of the Ohio train derailment that released vinyl chloride, a chemical used to make plastic.” The chemicals being transported in the rail cars have already penetrated the environment. Authorities conducted a controlled burn to avoid a catastrophic explosion of vinyl chloride, a highly flammable poison. 

That fire created a plume of smoke that likely released other chemicals in and around East Palestine, the town where the accident occurred. 

“There are products of combustion, and no one knows what these are,” said Dr. Edward Boyer, professor of emergency medicine at the Ohio State University College of Medicine.  

member of Congress tweeted that 1 million pounds of vinyl chloride were on the train, although the specific size of the spill is still unclear.” – Buzzfeed

Medical Express wrote, “How vinyl chloride, the chemical released in the Ohio train derailment, can damage the liver.”  “Vinyl chloride—the chemical in several of the train cars that derailed and burned in East Palestine, Ohio, in February 2023—can wreak havoc on the human liver. It has been shown to cause liver cancer, as well as a nonmalignant liver disease known as TASH, or toxicant-associated steatohepatitis. With TASH, the livers of otherwise healthy people can develop the same fat accumulation, inflammation and scarring (fibrosis and cirrhosis) as people who have cirrhosis from alcohol or obesity.”

In an article for The Conversation, How vinyl chloride, the chemical in the Ohio train derailment and used to make PVC plastics, can damage your liver, Juliane I. Beier wrote,

“Vinyl chloride is used to produce PVC, a hard plastic used for pipes, as well as in some packaging, coatings and wires. Its health risks were discovered in the 1970s at a B.F. Goodrich factory in the Rubbertown neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky. Four workers involved in the polymerization process for producing polyvinyl chloride there each developed angiosarcoma of the liver, an extremely rare type of tumor.

Their cases became among the most important sentinel events in the history of occupational medicine and led to the worldwide recognition of vinyl chloride as a carcinogen.” – The Conversation

Vinyl Chloride and Brain Tumors, and “Making a Cancer Cluster Disappear”

Seven years ago, in Feb. 2016, David Heath of the Center for Public Integrity published the article, Making a cancer cluster disappear as part of the series, Science for Sale, co-published with Vice.com.

The cancer cluster in question was the largest cluster of work-related brain tumor fatalities ever reported.

The likely culprit? Vinyl chloride.

The other culprit? The Chemical Industry’s Successful Application of Tobacco Science

Another Co-Collaborator: The World Health Organization’s IARC International Agency on Research on Cancer

The “Re-Working” of Vinyl Chloride/Brain Tumor Science

In its investigation of occupational brain tumor deaths historically related to chemical exposures, the Center for Public Integrity reported about a brain cancer cluster at a Union Carbide plant south of Houston, in Texas City, in the 1970s.

“The leading suspect was vinyl chloride, a chemical used to make polyvinyl chloride plastic. PVC is found in an endless array of products from plastic wrap to vinyl siding to children’s toys. Industry studies already had found higher-than-expected rates of brain cancer at vinyl chloride plants, and in 1979, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, part of the World Health Organization, took the unequivocal position that vinyl chloride caused brain tumors.

 “Yet today, a generation later, the scientific literature largely exonerates vinyl chloride. A 2000 industry review of brain cancer deaths at vinyl chloride plants found that the chemical’s link to brain cancer “remains unclear.”

Citing that study and others, IARC in 2008 reversed itself.”

A Rigged Study; Counting Only One of 23 Deaths

“However, a Center for Public Integrity review of thousands of once-confidential documents shows that the industry study cited by IARC was flawed, if not rigged. Although that study was supposed to tally all brain cancer deaths of workers exposed to vinyl chloride, Union Carbide didn’t include Malone’s death. In fact, the company counted only one of the 23 brain-tumor deaths in Texas City.

The Center’s investigation found that because of the way industry officials designed the study, it left out workers known to have been exposed to vinyl chloride, including some who had died of brain tumors. Excluding even a few deaths caused by a rare disease can dramatically change the results of a study.”

“The vinyl chloride episode shows what can happen when scientific research is left to companies with a huge stake in its outcome.” – Center for Public Integrity

In another case, according to the Center for Public Integrity, “In 2014, residents of McCullom Lake, Illinois, settled an eight-year-old lawsuit in which they claimed exposure to vinyl chloride that bled into groundwater from a nearby chemical plant, now owned by Dow, had caused a cluster of 33 brain tumors. The village has just over 1,000 residents. Dow admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, whose terms are confidential.

Today, all legal disputes and regulatory actions on vinyl chloride must rely heavily on industry studies given the dearth of independent research. An industry-sponsored update in 2000 — the largest and most-cited vinyl chloride study — reported 36 brain cancer deaths at 37 vinyl chloride plants among workers employed from 1942 to 1972. Despite the small number of cancers, that rate was 42 percent higher than what would have been expected in the general population.”

Documents show that more than three exposed workers might have been excluded from the updates. That’s because of a decision made in the early 1970s not to include people who were not stationed full-time in departments having direct contact with vinyl chloride. OSHA and NIOSH scientists noted that many of the brain cancer victims held jobs that would have brought them in contact with chemicals throughout the plant. They listed seven in maintenance, two in shipping and three in construction.

Leuvell Malone Sr. worked in maintenance. His son, Leuvell Malone Jr., said he had no idea Union Carbide claimed his father hadn’t been exposed to vinyl chloride.

“He was all over the plant. He did all of the oiling for all of the machinery,” Malone said. “He had to be exposed.”

“Union Carbide strategized for nearly two years on how to limit the threat from government studies of the Texas City cancer cluster. One Union Carbide lawyer advised internally that the more brain cancer deaths there were, the easier it would be for widows like Leuvell Malone’s wife, Ada, to win lawsuits.” []

The company decided to do its own analysis simultaneously, reasoning that “Independent investigations of the same set of data frequently yield differing results.”

The company also decided to hold a press conference to announce its results first, telling NIOSH just two days in advance. The story was front-page news.

“Our exhaustive studies neither indicate that any deaths due to brain cancer have been caused by occupational exposure, nor do they suggest any changes to our existing employee health programs or production procedures,” plant manager Damon Engle said in a press release.

The chemical industry has used its most recent studies in lawsuits to argue that vinyl chloride doesn’t cause brain tumors.

The current owner of the plant, Dow Chemical, denies that people in the community were exposed to vinyl chloride, though it settled the case with the brain cancer victims about a year ago. During the litigation, the company hired expert witnesses who cited the Mundt study to prove that the brain tumors couldn’t have been caused by vinyl chloride.

“One such expert, Peter Valberg of Gradient Corp., wrote that the families in McCullom Lake were citing early studies linking vinyl chloride to brain cancer but failed to cite more recent reviews.

“These in-depth summaries and updates of worker cohorts do not support a causal link between VC exposure and brain cancer,” Valberg wrote.” – Center for Public Integrity

Too Many Roads Lead Back to Peter Valberg, Gradient, and Rigged Science

Peter Valberg’s work is also featured in the “Science for Sale’ series article “Meet the ‘rented white coats’ who defend toxic chemicals when he, along with Evan Nelson, came up with a scheme to defend the asbestos industry by shifting the blame for mesothelioma to tobacco.

“There was an obvious problem with Nelson’s “science.” Researchers for decades have exhaustively analyzed data on the health of hundreds of thousands of smokers. Since 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General has summarized the findings of study after study, none of which shows evidence that tobacco causes mesothelioma.

Valberg wrote back within hours, calling Nelson’s scientific theory “very intriguing.” He was game to try to disseminate it in peer-reviewed journals. He later sent Nelson a contract agreeing to write the first of three articles and even offered him a 10-percent discount. In the meantime, Valberg would adopt Nelson’s theory as an expert witness in lawsuits, using it against mesothelioma victims such as Pam Collins of Bellevue, Ohio.” – Center for Public Integrity

It seems incredulous that Valberg would shift the blame for mesothelioma on tobacco because he is, literally, a tobacco scientist for Phillip Morris.

He testified for Phillip Morris in February of 2014 to de-certify a class action lawsuit in Ohio. “PM USA’s expert, Dr. Peter Valberg, relied on his review of numerous published studies evaluating the smoking behaviors of consumers who switched to light cigarettes in forming his opinions.”

That was the same week that he testified before the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities over-riding citizen health concerns about wireless smart utility meters.

His (unsubstantiated) opinion also formed the basis of a presentation given to the National Conference of State Legislatures justifying smart meter safety in 2012. Public utility commissions across the U.S. were influenced by or relied on Valberg’s opinion when authorizing the installation of wireless utility meters, despite reported harm, including the acute onset of neurological complaints,microwave illness, disability, and sensitivity to electromagnetic fields.

For Everyone In East Palestine Ohio, It Might Be Time to Revisit IARC Vinyl Chloride Science

 “Aaron Freiwald, the lawyer for the McCullom Lake families, said the scientific consensus today doesn’t account for the fact that workers were excluded from industry brain cancer studies.

“We established that even one accounted-for brain cancer would completely shift the data,” Freiwald said. “If there are at least three additional cases, it seems pretty clear that the literature on vinyl chloride and brain cancer as it is has to be rewritten.” – Center for Public Integrity

The World Health Organization and “Tobacco Science

Historically, the World Health Organization had to clear its ranks of tobacco scientists in order to address the harm being inflicted, worldwide, by an unscrupulous industry’s unethical science.


Unfortunately, compromised experts providing inaccurate tobacco ‘science” found ready employment working in other fields, including wireless industries, where compromised research continues to dominate the regulatory process.

Attacking Legitimate Science and Researchers

The tactics employed by the tobacco industry have not been contained over time, they have only gotten more brazen and multifaceted.

As described by Thomas O. McGarity and Wendy E. Wagner in their 2008 book “Bending Science, How Special Interests Corrupt Public Health Research. “Another method common among benders is to attack the scientific credibility of policy-relevant research. Frequently, the advocates resist the temptation to do this themselves. Rather, they use hired guns, themselves credentialed members of the academy, who in exchange for monetary payment label the research in question “unscientific,” “fatally flawed” or even the ultimate pejorative: “junk science.”

Then there is what the authors call “the art of bullying scientists who produce damaging research.” This is the set of practices used to encourage scientists, whose work threatens an economic interest or an ideology, to pursue other lines of research, if not work. At a minimum, it is intended to interrupt their research with time-consuming harassment. Harassment can include flooding researchers with demands for detailed data, correspondence on research, and the like, through Freedom of Information Act requests to their institutions. Advocates can orchestrate legislative hearings at which legislators partial to an advocate’s cause can aggressively attack a scientist, often impugning his or her motivations and hence character.” SOURCE

Monsanto and David Carpenter

The most recent example of attack described in “Bending Science’ involves Monsanto, David Carpenter, and the University at Albany in New York State. Professor David Carpenter is the Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the university.

As reported by Microwave News, “Just over two weeks ago, on February 5, the Albany Times Union reported that Carpenter had been “quietly placed on alternate assignment” as the University conducted a “disciplinary investigation” of his work as an expert witness on the health effects of PCBs, a family of highly toxic chemicals, formally known as polychlorinated biphenyls. They were manufactured by Monsanto until they were banned by the EPA in the late 1970s. (More about PCBs here.)”

Monsanto pressured the university to launch an investigation of Dr. Carpenter.

“While this investigation was going on, Carpenter was “instructed to not visit any campuses and perform his duties from home,” according to the Times Union.”

On February 13, the Times Union published a follow-up story detailing how Shook Hardy was using the university’s investigation to try and silence Carpenter in an ongoing case in which he is serving as an expert witness for the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. The tribe is suing Monsanto for PCB contamination of its lands, that are adjacent to a chemical dump.”

His suspension prompted widespread protests. He has since been re-instated.

Who Should be Investigated? David Carpenter or Peter Valberg?

Coincidentally, whereas tobacco scientists are generally on the wrong side of history, David Carpenter is described by Microwave News as “a major force in EMF/RF research.”

Here is a comment by Dr. Carpenter regarding smart meters.

Numerous state public utility commissions and municipalities across the county, when informed by the public about the credentials and compromised work of experts from Gradient and Exponent, including Valberg, simply ignored the warnings.

Will History Repeat Itself at the IARC?

In 2008, the World Health Organization’s International Agency on Research on Cancer reversed itself on vinyl chloride and brain tumors, apparently on the basis of corrupted data.

Now, the IARC is poised to revisit its classification of radio frequencies as a class 2B possible carcinogen. Many experts have voiced concern about the upcoming decision.

As the Center for Public Integrity noted, “The vinyl chloride episode shows what can happen when scientific research is left to companies with a huge stake in its outcome.”

In 1999, the World Health Organization synopsis of Tobacco Industry Tactics included the following recommendations.

  • Establish measures to limit interactions with the tobacco industry and ensure the transparency of those interactions that occur.
  • Reject partnerships and non-binding or non-enforceable agreements with the tobacco industry.
  • Avoid conflicts of interest for government officials and employees.
  • Require that information collected from the tobacco industry be transparent and accurate
  • Do not give privileged treatment to tobacco companies.

It appears that WHO has yet to apply its own wisdom, for other industries.

“Precision Scheduled Railroad” Played a Role in the East Palestine Disaster: “Practices That Made So Much Money at the Expense of Safety”

This interview by Covert Action with Chris Garaffa, Rachel Hu, and John Russell, explains the role that ‘Precision Scheduled Railroad” played in the East Palestine derailment, including lack of inspections, lack of maintenance, and the fact that the train was traveling with an axel on fire for twenty miles.  

“We discuss how corporate greed is the underlying cause of this crash, and the potential long-term impacts.”

Decisions were made to protect profits, and not health and safety, including banning the strike by railroad workers protesting safety hazards.

CovertAction Bulletin: On the Ground Report from East Palestine Train Derailment

Precision Scheduled Railroad, Precision Agriculture, Smart Grids, Smart Motorways, 15-minute Cities, and other supposed innovative policies being imposed top-down on communities are all catch phrases for inadequately scrutinized initiatives,

The profound toll of human suffering and premature deaths linked to cigarettes would have been greatly reduced had independent science and integrity prevailed sooner rather than later.

Action could be taken now to address the “Bending of Science” on the wireless issue.

The IARC’s processes needs international oversight and an overhaul, and independent investigation of the vinyl chloride issue, so that the reclassification does not impact decision-making and restitution in Ohio.

The international community should not sleep-walk into the IARC/Industry RF reclassification.

Many believe that our most lucratively paid mercenary scientists belong before the International Criminal Court, and not at the WHO.

And, we all need to become water protectors. Of everyone’s waters.

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