RE: Concerned about working with carcinogens

From:"Monson, Frederick C."

Your concern is real, but 30 years ago, I had my training in chemistry to
inform me of the hazards to which I was exposing myself every day, and still
I didn't decide to become a rich man doing something else.

Suppose you had worked in an asbestos plant for thirty years (years ago) and
found a study that told you that of all those who had worked at the plant
for all that time, the few who were diagnosed with both asbestosis AND
mesothelioma were also smokers, would you have been one of those who
suddenly began to sweat?  Are you sweating now?  Does smoking cause or
facilitate cellular transformations?

The question you should be asking is whether your job is any more or less
hazardous than that of the financier who works on Wall Street if you:  1)
work down the street from him; 2) work in a hospital in South Jabip, North
Dakota or 3) work in the toxic waste testing lab at a superfund site?  And,
if you worked in a poorly ventilated basement, were you indentured at the
time? [And I don't mean to be insensitive!]  We all have reason to distrust
our employers and our government, but yours is NOT the first generation of
workers to FINALLY question the motives of your employer AFTER working for a
number of years.  

In 1961, as a senior in college, I complained to my high school teacher of
civics that he hadn't included poll taxes in his lessons on state
governments.  That he hadn't included segregation of schools in his lessons
on 'free public education'.  If I had read the right authors, I would have
known, but most of us who were raised in suburbia didn't do that and were
not directed to that literature.  The marches were an unintended consequence
of inequality that was NOT discussed by our parents.  Why?  Probably because
they were guilty of permitting the problem.  There was more information
available on sex than on those matters.   Today, there is more concentration
on sex than there was then.  

In my brief lifetime, I have noticed a palpable increase in asthma, and NO
corresponding, scientific data related to cause.  I have noted a palpable
increase in the reports of antibiotic-sensitive microorganisms, anger
flame-outs on superhighways, a reduction in reading skills, a diminution in
quantitative skills, a shortage of nurses who are willing to do bedpans, and
a recent, sudden spike in something called patriotism.  Are any or all of
these related to toxins or hazardous chemicals in our food and/or air and/or
water?  Are any related to numbers?  Are any related to good and/or bad
decision-making by individuals and/or groups?  

Are you aware of the fact that your employer has no right to protect a
pregnant female from workplace hazards to any greater extent than that
employer protects you?  Are you aware of why a distinction between a male
who works on a lead-acid battery line and a pregnant female who works on the
same line has no legal standing?   Is it because common sense, or
sensitivity have no legal standing?  No, it's because individuals have made
choices that concern themselves alone even when their sphere of
responsibility has increased.  

When nurses with Bachelor's degrees decided that certain jobs in nursing
were beneath their position, there was the sound of silent quaking
throughout the health delivery system.  Now there are nation-wide shortages
of qualified nurses.  Everyone wants to be an administrator!  Yet, when I
have been in the hospital, there has always been at least one nurse who
cares for me like a baby.

We in science are trained to make judgements that are based on knowledge.
Did your employer tell you what you needed to know before you went into that
basement to work with xylene.  When I hired assistants to do my paraffin
processing for me, I always laid out in devastating detail the potential
hazards involved.  I had to choose.  They did too.  If your employer is not
completely honest, it is either from fear or ignorance.  The latter can be
forgiven.  There was no OSHA when I was young, and we histologists still use
the same chemicals that were used then. 

Each of us makes the initial decisions about what to do, where to work and
the circumstances under which we will work.  All of us are volunteers in the
American work force, and work can be hazardous to your health, even when our
return address is 'dot GOV'!  

Regards and quit smoking to all,

Fred Monson

Frederick C. Monson, PhD   
Center for Advanced Scientific Imaging
Schmucker II Science Center
West Chester University
South Church Street and Rosedale
West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA, 19383
Phone:  610-738-0437
FAX:  610-738-0437
Visitors URL:


> ----------
> From:
> Sent: 	Monday, July 8, 2002 4:51 PM
> To:
> Subject: 	Concerned about working with carcinogens
> Is anyone out there concerned about the hazardous materials we are exposed
> to daily in Histology? 
> Such as Xylene, Formalin, and some of the other carcinogens used through
> out
> Histology.  
> We keep the exposure levels under the limits but I still can't help but
> wonder if we're in harms way.  

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