Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Maker of Roundup weedkiller solicits help from lawmakers to protect it from suits about cancer

Bayer, manufacturer of Roundup, the country's best-selling pesticide, is seeking help from legislators to protect it from claims that it failed to warn buyers about cancer risks.

According to an Associated Press story by Hannah Fingerhut and David A. Lieb in yesterday's editions of the San Francisco Chronicle, chemical giant Bayer, "stung by paying billions of dollars for settlements and trials, has been lobbying lawmakers in three states to pass bills providing it a legal shield from lawsuits that claim its popular weedkiller Roundup causes cancer."

Legal experts warn that identical bills introduced in Iowa, Missouri, and Idaho this year, with wording supplied by Bayer, could have even broader consequences — "extending to any product liability claim or, in Iowa's case, providing immunity from lawsuits of any kind," the article contends.

Matt Clement
The piece quotes Matt Clement, a Jefferson City, Missouri, attorney who represents people suing Bayer, to the effect that "it's just not good government to give a company immunity for things that they're not telling their consumers. If they're successful in getting this passed in Missouri, I think they'll be trying to do this all over the country."

Some 167,000 legal claims against Bayer, the Fingerhut/Lieb story says, contend that Roundup causes non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The corporation already has "suffered several losses in which juries awarded huge initial judgments," the article goes on, and "has paid about $10 billion while thousands of claims linger in court."

Roundup's main ingredient, glyphosate, is derived from phosphate mined in Idaho. 

The debate over whether glyphosate is truly a demon in the weedkiller equation "escalated when a 2015 report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, said it's 'probably carcinogenic to humans,' a decision that was based on some evidence of cancer in people as well as evidence in study animals."

The federal Environmental Protection Agency, on the other hand, had regularly concluded that it's not likely to be carcinogenic to humans "when used as directed," the AP story contends. A federal appeals court panel in 2022, on a third hand, ordered the EPA to further review the situation after ruling that the agency's decision "was not supported by substantial evidence," the Fingerhut/Lieb piece continues.

The story ends by quoting John Gilbert, an Iowa Falls farmer who's used Roundup only in a limited fashion. He calls local Republicans hypocritical for attempting to protect corporate interests after campaigning on standing up for Iowans' interests.

The final paragraph of the story: "The bill 'invites a lot of reckless disregard,' said  Gilbert, who is on the board for the Iowa Farmers Union. 'No amount of perfume's gonna make it anything but a skunk."

More information about politics surrounding the risks of disease can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten,  aimed at male caregivers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Patients already using new experimental blood tests to detect cancer, Washington Post reports

Some patients may be using blood tests to detect cancer that haven't been cleared by the FDA.

A story by Marlene Simons in today's editions of The Washington Post reports that Galleri, a new multi-cancer detection test, is but one of 20 tests in various stages of development that analyze substances in the blood that might indicate cancer. 

Those tests, the article says, "may be especially useful finding 'silent' cancers — such as pancreatic or ovarian cancer — which often don't cause symptoms until the disease is advanced and more difficult to treat."

On the flip side, Simons' piece indicates, "while these findings are promising, experts warned of drawbacks. So far, there's no evidence that finding cancer via a blood test translates to longer survival and fewer deaths, or even a cure, experts said."

Dr. Lori Minasian
The WashPost story also quotes Dr. Lori Minasian, deputy director of the National Cancer Institute's division of cancer prevention, as warning that "people want to believe there is one test that can pick up all the different kinds of cancers, and if it's negative, they can go on their way. But it's not that simple.

Several experts, the piece continues, "pointed out that multi-cancer detection tests don't find every cancer at its earliest stage, in part because certain cancers spread quickly."

These tests, which aren't covered by Medicare or other insurance, have yet to be cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for final approval — but are available as "lab-based" tests under federal guidelines that "permit their use in certain settings."

Caveats include many unanswered questions, the story says, "such as whether use of the tests should be based on age, risk factors, or family history." Along with the notion of how frequently people should take the blood tests, the remaining issues make it almost certain that they "probably are several years away from widespread use."

More information on research into various diseases can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Biden administration limits pollutants from chemical plants in hope of cutting cancer risks

A federal agency has put restraints on more than 200 chemical plant pollutants.

The action by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a story by Lisa Friedman in editions of The New York Times this week, was aimed at shielding people who live close to plants that release toxic chemicals into the air.

Friedman's story indicates that this is "the first time in nearly two decades that the government has tightened lies on pollution from chemical plants."

The new rule specifically targets ethylene oxide, a chemical used to sterilize medical devices, and one used to make rubber in footwear, chloroprene. Both, now classified as carcinogens, are considered "as a top health concern in an area of Louisiana so dense with petrochemical and refinery plants that it is know as Cancer Alley," according to the article.

Most of the 200 facilities are in Louisiana, Texas, and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, as well as in the Ohio River Valley and West Virginia.

Michael S. Regan, EPA administrator, told the Times that the new regulation — which requires the plants to monitor vents and storage tanks for the two chemicals and plug any leaks — would reduce emissions by 80 percent.

The plants, Friedman's piece asserts, "will also be required to reduce emissions of four other toxic chemicals: benzene, which is used in motor fuels as well as oils and paints; 1,3-butadiene, which is used to make synthetic rubber and plastics; and ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride, both of which are used to make a variety of plastics and vinyl products."

Patrice Simms
Patrice Simms, vice president for litigation for healthy communities at Earthjustice, an environmental group, is quoted to the effect that "in a very real sense this is about life and death," further contending that it's impossible to overstate the importance of the new regulation to families that live next to large polluting facilities.

Not everyone agrees. The Times says Republicans and industry groups insist the new Biden administration rule is "onerous, and they questioned the EPA's scientific assessment of the chemicals."

More information about risks of disease can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Studies by 2 Columbia Univ. cancer researchers have been retracted because they altered data

Studies by two Columbia University researchers in have been pulled, further illustrating whaat experts say is the sluggishness of scientific publishers to address serious errors. 

That information appears in a recent story by Benjamin Mueller in editions of The New York Times, which also notes that the cancer scientists have now had four studies retracted and have had "a stern note added to a fifth accusing [them] of 'severe abuse of the scientific publishing system.'"

Last year, "a scientific sleuth in Britain uncovered discrepancies in data published by the Columbia lab, including the reuse of photos and other images across different papers," Mueller's article indicates, adding that the Times last month reported that a medical journal  the year before "had quietly taken down a stomach cancer study by the researchers after an internal inquiry by the journal found ethics violations."

Dr. David
The Times further reported that the pair — Dr. Sam Yoon, chief of a cancer surgery division at the university's medical center, and Dr. Changhwan Yoon, a more junior biologist there who's not related — have continued publishing studies with suspicious data. Since 2008, the story continues, the two "have collaborated with other researchers on 26 articles that the sleuth, Dr. Sholto David, flagged for misrepresenting experiments' results."

Experts, according to Mueller, charged that the incidents "illustrated not only the extent of  unreliable research by top labs but also the tendency of scientific publishers to respond slowly, if at all, to significant problems once they are detected."

For every paper that is retracted, opined Dr. Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, which keeps a database of 47,000-plus retracted studies, "there are probably 10 that should be. Journals are not particularly interested in correcting the record."

Imaging experts, Mueller's story maintains, have claimed "some irregularities identified by Dr. David bore signs of deliberate manipulation, like flipped or rotated images, while others could have been sloppy copy-and-paste errors."

More information about scientific research — good and bad — can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.