Causal Understandings: Controversy, Social Context, and Mesothelioma Research
- 13 Downloads
Asbestos-related diseases are often considered a ‘thing of the past’ in the global North. Yet, asbestos products remain widely used in the global South, especially in low cost housing. Like many occupational diseases, the history of asbestos is fraught with scientific controversy. The role of the asbestos industry in fostering uncertainty has been investigated for decades. But, less is known about the ways in which publicly-funded, not industry-funded, science has produced ignorance about the health consequences of exposure. To explore the contribution of publicly-funded science to the construction of ignorance, we examine the continuities and discontinuities among three hypotheses of mesothelioma causality: the amphibole hypothesis, the SV40 hypothesis, and the genetic hypothesis. Placing our analysis of scientific controversy in the context of asbestos mining in South Africa, we summarize the key features of the long-standing amphibole hypothesis, track in detail the emergence of SV40 as a causal agent, and outline the ongoing debate over genes as causes of mesothelioma. Regardless of the source of funding, we argue that by operating within conceptually closed biomedical frameworks, each hypothesis generated scientific controversy that made the political, social, and economic context of asbestos mining, milling, and manufacture in South Africa and other regions of the global South invisible, thereby limiting causal understanding.
KeywordsAsbestos SV40 Epistemic oppression Mesothelioma Construction of ignorance Amphibole hypothesis
The authors thank the participants in the 2011 Workshop Debating Causation: Risk, Biology, Self, and Environment in Cancer Epistemology, 1950–2000 at Princeton University and the 2016 Boston Colloquium on Race and Epistemic Marginalization at Boston University for their insightful comments on earlier versions of this paper. We also thank Anne Fausto-Sterling for discussions around the concept of publicly-funded science. We extend our gratitude to the late Frank Kellerman for his assistance with our search.
- Alcoff, L. 2007. Epistemologies of Ignorance: Three Types. In Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance, ed. S. Sullivan, and N. Tuana, 39–57. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
- Anonymous asbestos mineworker. 1957. Letter to Magistrate, 16 October, KAB; 2/KMN/Vol. 35. N.3/13/3 (2) Western Cape Archives and Records Service, Cape Town, South Africa.Google Scholar
- Augusto, G. 2017. Plants of Bondage, Limbo Plants, and Liberation Flora: Diasporic Reflections for STS in Africa and Africa in STS. In What do Science, Technology, and Innovation Mean from Africa ed Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Beck, U. 1992. Risk Society. London: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
- Bradford-Hill, A. 1965. The Environment and Disease Association or Causation? Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 58 (5): 295–300.Google Scholar
- Brodeur, P. 1985. Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
- Carbone, M. 2013. Guest Post: Dr. Michele Carbone in Memory of Dr. Baris. The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation. http://blog.curemeso.org/guest-post-dr-michele-carbone-memory-dr-baris/. Accessed 16 July 2016.
- Carbone, M., H.I. Pass, P. Rizzo, M. Marinetti, M. Di Muzio, D.J. Mew, A.S. Levine, and A. Procopio. 1994. Simian Virus 40-like DNA Sequences in Human Pleural Mesothelioma. Oncogene 9 (6): 1781–1790.Google Scholar
- Carbone, M., P. Rizzo, P.M. Grimley, A. Procopio, D.J. Mew, V. Shridhar, A. de Bartolomeis, V. Esposito, M.T. Giuliano, S.M. Steinberg, A.S. Levine, A. Giordano, and H.I. Pass. 1997a. Simian Virus-40 Large-T Antigen Binds p53 in Human Mesotheliomas. Nature Medicine 3 (8): 908–912.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Castleman, B.I., and S.L. Berger. 1993. Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects, 5th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Law and Business.Google Scholar
- Cicala, C., F. Pompetti, and M. Carbone. 1993. SV40 Induces Mesothelioma in Hamsters. American Journal of Pathology 142 (5): 1524–1533.Google Scholar
- Colgrove, J. 2006. State of Immunity: The Politics of Vaccination in Twentieth-Century America. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Comaroff, J. 1993. The Diseased Heart of Africa: Medicine, Colonialism, and the Black Body. In Knowledge, Power, and Practice: The Anthropology of Everyday Life, ed. S. Lindenbaum, and M. Locke. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Cullen, M.R. 1987. Controversies in Asbestos Related Lung Cancer. Occupational Medicine 2 (2): 259–272.Google Scholar
- De Luca, A., A. Baldi, V. Esposito, C.M. Howard, L. Bagella, P. Rizzo, M. Caputi, H.I. Pass, G.G. Giordano, F. Baldi, M. Carbone, and A. Giordano. 1997. The Retinoblastoma Gene Family pRb/p105, p107, pRb2/p130 and Simian Virus-40 Large T-antigen in Human Mesotheliomas. Nature Medicine 3 (8): 913–916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Elliott, K.C. 2015. Selective Ignorance in Environmental Research. In Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies, ed. M. Gross, and L. McGoey. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. 2014. Asbestos, Asbestosis, and Cancer: Helsinski criteria for diagnosis and attribution. Helsinki: Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.Google Scholar
- Frickel, S., and A. Kinchy. 2015. Lost in Space: Geographies of Ignorance in Science and Technology Studies. In Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies, ed. M. Gross, and L. McGoey. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Gazdar, A.F., J.S. Butel, and M. Carbone. 2002. SV40 and Human Tumors: Myth, Association or Causality? Nature Reviews 2 (12): 957–964.Google Scholar
- Gross, M., and L. McGoey. 2015. Introduction. In Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies, ed. M. Gross, and L. McGoey, 1–14. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Head, J. 2010. The Turkish Village Blighted by Cancer. BBC News Europe, 9 Nov. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-11711136. Accessed 15 July 2015.
- Hecht, G. 2012. Being Nuclear: Africans and the Global Uranium Trade. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Higgins, J.G., and S. Green (eds.). 2008. Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Johnston, R., and A. McIvor. 2000. Lethal Work: A History of the Asbestos Tragedy in Scotland. East Linton: Tuckwell Press.Google Scholar
- Latour, B. 1988. Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- McCulloch, J. 2002. Asbestos Blues: Labor, Capital, Physicians & the State in South Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
- McCulloch, J., and G. Tweedale. 2008. Defending the Indefensible: The Global Asbestos Industry and Its Fight for Survival. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- McGinty, L. 1978. Cancer Epidemic Raises Doubts on Mineral Fibres. New Scientist, 18 May, pp. 428.Google Scholar
- Michaels, D. 2008. Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Myers, J.E. 1980. Asbestos and Asbestos-Related Disease in South Africa: Saldru Working Paper No. 28. Cape Town: Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit.Google Scholar
- National Institutes of Health. 2011. NIH-Funded Researchers Discover Genetic Link to Mesothelioma. 28 August. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-funded-researchers-discover-genetic-link-mesothelioma. Accessed 9 August 2016.
- Oleckno, W. 2008. Epidemiology: Concepts and Methods. Long Grove, Ill: Waveland Press.Google Scholar
- Pass, H.I., R.C. Kennedy, and M. Carbone. 1996. Evidence for and Implications of SV40-Like Sequences in Human Mesotheliomas. In Important Advances in Oncology, ed. V.T. DeVita, S. Hellman, and S.A. Rosenberg, 89–108. Philadelphia: Lippincott-Raven Publishers.Google Scholar
- Perry, K-K.Y., Rappaport J. 2013. Making a Case for Collaborative Research with Black and Indigenous Movements in Latin America. In Otros Saberes; Collaborative Research on Indigenous and Afro-descendent cultural politics, eds. Hale, C.R., and Stephen, L. Santa Fe, NM: SAR PressGoogle Scholar
- Proctor, R.N., and L. Schiebinger (eds.). 2008. Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- Rosner, D., and G. Markowitz. 1991. Deadly Dust: Silicosis and the Ongoing Struggle to Protect Workers’ Health. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Sleggs, C.A. 1960. Clinical Aspects of Asbestosis in the Northern Cape. In: Proceedings of the Pneumoconiosis Conference held at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 9th–24th February, 1959, ed. A. Orenstein, pp. 383–390. London: Churchill.Google Scholar
- SouthAfrica.info. 2008. SA Bans All Use of Asbestos. 28 March. http://www.southafrica.info/services/health/asbestos-280308.htm#.VA-SPUiTG_s. Accessed 2 June 2016.
- Strickler, H.D., J.J. Goedert, M. Fleming, W.D. Travis, A.E. Williams, C.S. Rabkin, R.W. Daniel, and K.V. Shah. 1996. Simian Virus 40 and Pleural Mesothelioma in Humans. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention 5 (6): 473–475.Google Scholar
- Sullivan, S., and N. Tuana (eds.). 2007. Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
- Tesh, S.N. 1988. Hidden Arguments: Political Ideology and Disease Prevention Policy. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
- Testa, J.R., M. Carbone, A. Hirvonen, K. Khalili, B. Krynska, K. Linnainmaa, F.D. Pooley, P. Rizzo, V. Rusch, and G.H. Xiao. 1998. A Multi-institutional Study Confirms the Presence and Expression of Simian Virus 40 in Human Malignant Mesotheliomas. Cancer Research 58 (20): 4505–4509.Google Scholar
- Testa, J.R., M. Cheung, J. Pei, J.E. Below, Y. Tan, E. Sementino, N.J. Cox, A.U. Dogan, H.I. Pass, S. Trusa, M. Hesdorffer, M. Nasu, A. Powers, Z. Rivera, S. Comertpay, M. Tanji, G. Gaudino, H. Yang, and M. Carbone. 2011. Germline BAP1 Mutations Predispose to Malignant Mesothelioma. Nature Genetics 43 (10): 1022–1025.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- University of Hawai’i Cancer Center. 2016. Michele Carbone, MD, Ph.D. Faculty Biosketch. http://uhcancercenter.org/about-us/directory/faculty-staff/2-directory/99-michele-carbone-md-phd. Accessed 5 June 2016.
- van Horssen, J. 2016. A Town Called Asbestos: Environmental Contamination, Health, and Resilience in a Resource Community. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.Google Scholar
- Wagner, J.C. 1960. Some Pathological Aspects of Asbestos in the Union of South Africa. In Proceedings of the Pneumoconiosis Conference Held at the University of Witswatersrand, Johannesburg, 1959, ed. A.J. Orenstein, pp. 383–390. London: J. & A. Churchhill LtdGoogle Scholar
- Wagner, J.C. 1962. The Pathology of Asbestosis in South Africa. M.D. dissertation, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.Google Scholar
- Wagner, J.C., C.A. Sleggs, and P. Marchand. 1960. Diffuse Pleural Mesothelioma and Asbestos Exposure in the North Western Cape Province. British Journal Industrial Medicine 17 (4): 260–271.Google Scholar