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Canadian TV reports on study linking molding workers to breast cancer

By: Michael Lauzon

January 28, 2014

A Canadian television program revived a 15-month-old study that alleged women in automotive injection molding plants could be at higher risk of breast cancer.

Global TV's 16×9 news program ran a 15-minute segment based on the study, which was released in November 2012. Shortly after the study appeared, the American Chemistry Council questioned the study, indicating it was flawed and over-interpreted results.

The Jan. 25 TV program repeated the 2012 study's main allegation, that pre-menopausal women in plastics plants had more than a 400 percent elevated risk of breast cancer. The program introduced no new studies on the issue. It relied heavily on the opinions of Jim Brophy, lead author of the study and now-retired executive director of the Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers.

"These [molding] machines sometimes eject sticky plastic that smokes and smolders and that workers can breathe in," Brophy said. Brophy called such emissions a "toxic soup" that can make animals sick.

The study did not specify which chemicals are suspect or the amount of exposure to them.

The 2012 study, published in the Journal of Environmental Health, examined a range of occupational data for women with breast cancer in the Ontario counties of Essex and Kent, where numerous auto injection molding plants operate.

The program's narrator suggested plant emission standards in Ontario are not stringent enough compared to European standards. Leon Genesove, the head doctor for the Ontario Ministry of Labour, defended the province's emissions programs.

"In Ontario we have a multi-faceted approach to protecting workers from occupational diseases, with our enforcement strategy, with our blitzes, with our research program, with our new prevention program," Genesove said on camera.

The Canadian Plastics Industry Association continues to question the study's findings, the association's president said in a Jan. 28 telephone interview.

"The plastics industry in Canada takes workplace health and safety very seriously, and we don't want to see plastics industry workers unnecessarily alarmed by these kinds of media stories," stated Carol Hochu. CPIA and its members endorse strong enforcement of standards and laws that protect worker health and safety, she added.