A two-year investigation released by BP Amoco admits that toxic chemicals were probably to blame for more than 20 cases of cancer among workers at their research lab outside Chicago.
The third floor of the laboratory, known as Building 503, had a problem and those who worked there knew it. CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan reports that since 1989, five employees of the energy and petrochemicals company have died and at least 15 others have been diagnosed with varying forms of tumors and cancers.
According to Amoco's Michael Wells, "The evidence suggests that the individuals who have been affected with brain cancer, that it is very possible that something about their work caused it."
Although admitting one problem, the company denied others. Experts hired by Amoco to solve the medical mystery found a possible link with only one very rare kind of brain cancer. They say the other reported illnesses had nothing to do with conditions at the lab.
The news gives little comfort to George Varney, who worked at the lab for some 13 years. He's been diagnosed with liver cancer, fatal without a transplant. "I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to notice things were obviously wrong at that particular facility," he says.
More than a dozen lawsuits are now pending against the company; most claim a faulty ventilation system wasn't protecting workers from exposure to toxic chemicals. Grant Dixon, an attorney representing a plaintiff against Amoco, says "Your odds of developing brain cancer in 503, if you worked in that one building, particularly on one floor, were more than 10 times what you would have if you worked anywhere else in the complex."
The company has since shut the lab down. The investigation continues, as will the waiting for those already diagnosed and those wondering if they may be next.