An industry-funded study begun decades ago was designed to make an apparent excess of worker brain cancers go away.
The vinyl chloride episode shows what can happen when scientific research is left to companies with a huge stake in its outcome. After launching a flurry of vinyl chloride studies in the late 1970s, OSHA and NIOSH abruptly stopped under the anti-regulatory climate instilled by the Reagan administration. The chemical industry, meanwhile, continued to update its studies and use them to defend against lawsuits by people blaming their brain cancers on vinyl chloride. The result was biased research that changed the scientific consensus. The final update of the largest vinyl chloride study is expected to be published this year.