No industry can truly achieve success without a strong commitment to the health and safety of all its workers. As vinyl chloride and PVC producers we take this responsibility very seriously.
Recently, a series of articles in the Houston Chronicle questioned our commitment to our employees, revisiting a well-documented period in our industry's history, 25 years ago.
Prior to 1974, some industry employees were exposed to high concentrations of vinyl chloride monomer and tragically developed angiosarcoma, a rare form of liver cancer. No one at the time knew these exposures could result in workers contracting this cancer, but that doesn't lessen the tragedy.
However, the Houston Chronicle series contains a number of misrepresentations and factual errors. We intend to set the record straight and frankly discuss these issues with our employees, their families, our customers and the public. Here are the key facts:
There never was a concerted effort or ``conspiracy'' to conceal the health effects of vinyl chloride. Rather, for years we have sponsored studies by world-class experts in an effort to determine the potential health effects of our products.
The truth is that for nearly 25 years the vinyl industry has stringently adhered to rigorous and highly effective standards to protect the safety of our workers.
These standards were established in 1974 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and were based in part on research sponsored by the Chemical Manufacturers Association and its members.
Based on tracking registry data, no cases of angiosarcoma have been reported among employees who started work in a U.S. VCM or PVC plant since that time.
Even though unsafe workplace VCM exposures have been virtually eliminated, the Chemical Manufacturers Association is sponsoring additional research into potential health effects to protect the continued health and safety of our workers. We routinely make the results of such scientific research publicly available.
Today's chemical industry jobs are among the safest in the United States, a fact that has been confirmed independently by both the National Safety Council and the Department of Labor. But we're not satisfied.
As an industry, we're dedicated to a process called Responsible Care, critical self-examination and continuous improvement of our performance in all areas. Our employees, our employees' families, our customers and the public will settle for nothing less.
Neither will we.
Robert H. Burnett