Richard Urschel

Tue, 2010-09-07 10:32Kevin Grandia
Kevin Grandia's picture

Koch Industries Funds Attack on Science Linking Formaldehyde and Cancer

Further revelations have come to light since the recent controversial expose in the New Yorker about Koch Industries, surrounding New York billionaire David Koch and his company’s involvement in the industry-led effort to downplay the links between formaldehyde and cancer.

In 2008, the president of one of Koch Industry’s subsidiaries sat as the Chair of a pro-Formaldehyde lobby group called the Formaldehyde Council. The subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific, is also a long-time funder of the Formaldehyde Council.

Among other things, the Formaldehyde Council tried to downplay the negative health impacts of formaldehyde in trailers set up for victims of the Katrina disaster.

Prior to the recent media attention, the New York social elite knew David Koch mostly for his commendable charitable donations to groups like the American Ballet Theater and the American Museum of Natural History.

Learning that he, through his role as senior executive and Chairman of Koch Industries, also bankrolls far-right groups and causes that regularly question President Obama’s U.S. citizenship and deny climate science surely piqued their interest in Koch’s other side.

One baffling conflict mentioned by journalist Jane Mayer in her New Yorker article is David Koch’s generous funding of cancer research, while simultaneously his companies and their lobbying groups fight against federal efforts to regulate the known human carcinogen formaldehyde.

David Koch was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the early 1990s, and since then has become a major financier of cancer research, donating hundreds of millions of dollars to respected cancer research centers such as Sloan-Kettering, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, M.I.T. and Johns Hopkins University, as Mayer notes.

For his commendable charitable work, David Koch was appointed to the National Cancer Advisory Board,a committee of the US National Cancer Institute, in 2004 by President George W. Bush and remains a member today [pdf].

Our research has uncovered very strong ties between Georgia-Pacific, a company co-owned by David Koch through Koch Industries, and a political lobby group called the Formaldehyde Council that is involved in efforts to downplay the dangers posed by formaldehyde to human health.

Formaldehyde is classified as a “Group 1 Carcinogen” which is defined as an agent that “is definitely carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), and “a complete carcinogen” in the words of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The National Toxicology Program also recently revised its characterization of formaldehyde to that of “known human carcinogen.”

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