Investigative reports such as those published by the American Petroleum Institute in 1948 will soon be made available to the public in order to better inform individuals about the dangers of certain chemicals. In a 1948 report written by a Harvard School of Public Health professor, it was found that benzene, a common solvent and ingredient in gasoline, was closely linked to leukemia even in small amounts. Interestingly enough, the American Petroleum Institute published the document and was the oil industry's main lobbying group.
For years since its publication, this and other documents revealing the dangerous nature of such chemicals found in common products have been downplayed and disregarded by large oil companies. Such actions display, in the words of Beaumont attorney Herschel Hobson, "how industry didn't want to share bad news with their employees." Sadly, none of this information was ever provided to the countless number of employees who work with and around these dangerous chemicals on a daily basis.
CPI Moves to Publish Thousands of Documents
To counter such measure on the part of oil companies, the Center for Public Integrity, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Heath, and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York have teamed up to release roughly 20,000 documents on benzene to the public in a searchable online archive. Private individuals will now have access to previously hidden oil and chemical industry memoranda, emails, letters, PowerPoints, and meeting minutes.
The story won't end with benzene. The Center for Public Integrity is looking to quickly post hundreds of thousands of documents from suits involving other chemicals such as lead, asbestos, silica, hexavalent chromium and PCBs, among others. The move follows in the footsteps of UC San Francisco which boasts an intimidating collection of documents from tobacco suits called the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library at a healthy 80 million pages.