I have copied that sentence onto the outside of a file folder on my desk. In it are published papers documenting links between bladder cancer and a group of synthetic chemicals called aromatic amines. The earliest report comes from a German surgeon in 1895 who noticed bladder cancer among textile dye workers exposed to the color magenta during a period of time when coal tar-derived pigments—aromatic amines—were replacing plant-based pigments in the European textile industry. Another paper recounts that all fifteen workers in a British mill had succumbed to bladder cancer. A series of papers in the 1950s painstakingly documented increased rates of bladder cancer among chemical industry workers exposed to aromatic amines. Nearly identical findings continued to be published in the 1960s and 1980s. In 1991, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health uncovered bladder cancer rates among aromatic amine-exposed workers that are twenty-seven-fold higher than normal. The most recent paper I have was published in 2009. It reports elevated bladder cancer rates among farmers who use imazethapyr, a pesticide containing aromatic amines. Imazethapyr was registered for use in 1989—more than 100 years after the German surgeon’s early warning.

Sandra Steingraber. Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment (Foreword to the Second Edition). Da Capo Press. Kindle Edition.

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