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What did coke oven manufacturers know, yet fail to mention to the men on top of the ovens?
- British scientists published the results of a study in 1936 showing that the incidence of death due to lung cancer among coke oven chargers was nearly three times greater than it was for matched controls.
- In 1954, scientists at the University of Cincinnati told the companies who built the coke ovens at Bethlehem Steel to obtain records of workers who had severe exposure to coal tar fumes, and specified larry car drivers and other job assignments, to determine the cause of death.
- The lidman was considered to be the most exposed job classification in the coke oven operation. In 1957, the industry considered sampling the air in his breathing zone, but was concerned about “possible unfavorable reactions.” In other words, the men might start asking questions.
- In 1957, one of the country’s most respected researchers in the area of occupational cancer informed the companies that built the coke ovens at Bethlehem Steel that rats exposed to the inhalation of hot coal tar fumes were getting lung cancer. The industry did nothing to warn the workers.
By 1959, the industry learned from a review of its own records that African-American workers on the top and side of the ovens were dying in excessive numbers from lung cancer. Nothing was done to inform the workers. Instead, the industry continued to study the situation. Coke oven workers continued to die.
If you or any of your family members worked at any of the various coke oven operations in and around Upstate New York, and if you are suffering from lung or other cancers, contact us for a free case evaluation.