Saturday, March 5, 2011

Billionaire Oil Magnate David Koch Supports Cancer Research–And The Use Of A Carcinogen

Billionaire oil magnates Charles and David Koch are known for their support of conservative causes, including climate change denial, opposition to health care reform and union busting. A New York Times article focused on one other cause to which David Koch is dedicated, cancer research. Koch, who learned that he had prostate cancer in 1992, donated $100 million to support a new cancer research center located at MIT. The article notes, however, that even Koch's philanthropic activity is contradicted by his zeal for profits:

...while he has become a major financier of cancer research around the country, one of his companies, Georgia-Pacific, which produces formaldehyde, has been trying to convince the government not to list formaldehyde as a human carcinogen. Koch Industries said it would respect and comply with any new governmental regulation. 

A New Yorker article–must reading in my view–written by Jane Mayer (8/30/10) on the Koch Brothers' support of right-wing causes elaborates on this contradiction: the same time that David Koch has been casting himself as a champion in the fight against cancer, Koch Industries has been lobbying to prevent the E.P.A. from classifying formaldehyde, which the company produces in great quantities, as a “known carcinogen” in humans.

Scientists have long known that formaldehyde causes cancer in rats, and several major scientific studies have concluded that formaldehyde causes cancer in human beings—including one published last year by the National Cancer Institute, on whose advisory board Koch sits. ...Koch Industries has been a large funder of members of Congress who have stymied the E.P.A., requiring it to defer new regulations until more studies are completed.

Koch Industries became a major producer of the chemical in 2005, after it bought Georgia-Pacific, the paper and wood-products company, for twenty-one billion dollars. Georgia-Pacific manufactures formaldehyde in its chemical division, and uses it to produce various wood products, such as plywood and laminates. ...David Koch did not recuse himself from the National Cancer Advisory Board, or divest himself of company stock, while his company was directly lobbying the government to keep formaldehyde on the market...

James Huff, an associate director at the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, a division of the N.I.H., told me that it was “disgusting” for Koch to be serving on the National Cancer Advisory Board: “It’s just not good for public health. Vested interests should not be on the board.”...


skepticalblogger said...

So does he even get a nod of credit for funding cancer research? Or ACLU opposition to the PATRIOT Act? Or the American Ballet? Or Lincoln Center? Or the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center? Or the Cornell Medical Center? Or PBS? Or the Smithsonian? Or the American Museum of Natural History? Or were all these efforts similarly duplicitous?

(Smells to me like he's a principled libertarian, more than a right-wing ideologue.)

Jeff Tone said...

A nod at most. The Kochs do too much harm. What is the principle in funding cancer research and blocking the labeling of formaldehyde as a carcinogen? Making sure that the texts in the Hall of Human Origins in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History downplay climate change? Amazing how both examples, along with their support for union bashing, coincide with the Kochs' economic interests. That, along with their right-wing ideology, is what drives the Kochs more than anything else.