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Bladder Cancer Caused by Chemicals

Bladder cancer is a classic work-related disease. In 1895 in Frankfurt, Germany, a physician named Rehn reported that he had seen three cases of bladder cancer from one factory which made dyes. By 1904, Rehn reported twenty cases of bladder cancer from the same plant. Rehn concluded that chemical exposure in the plant had caused the bladder cancers.


In the United States, DuPont began manufacturing dyes in its plant in Deepwater, New Jersey (Salem County) in 1915. By 1934, DuPont reported twenty-seven cases of bladder cancer among the workers in the plant. By 1936, the number of bladder cancers had increased to sixty-three, of which four had died due to the disease. By 1981, the number of bladder cancers had increased to 316 cases. In a memo dated October 25, 1991, a DuPont physician reported "489 incident cases of bladder cancer since 1929" at this plant, of which DuPont had determined that 453 had been caused by chemical exposure.


In Niagara Falls, New York, two workers from The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company plant bumped into each other at the local urologist’s office. They asked each other for the reason for their visit to the doctor. Each explained that he had bladder cancer. By 1981, four workers in the plant had developed bladder cancer and they all worked in one area, Department 245. Their union, OCAW Local 8-277, wrote to Goodyear and requested information regarding "known or suspect bladder carcinogens that are now in use or have ever been used at the plant." In its response, Goodyear denied that any such chemicals had ever been used in the plant.


By 1988, the OCAW had documented eight cases of bladder cancer in the Goodyear plant and wrote to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to request an investigation. NIOSH found fifteen cases of bladder cancer, a number which indicated that there was a statistically significant excess incidence of bladder cancer in this group of workers.


In 2013, NIOSH updated its study and reported that fifty cases of bladder cancer had occurred among the Goodyear workers through 2007, and was again able to "confirm an increased risk of bladder cancer among workers in the plant." As of 2016, we are aware of an additional seventeen cases of bladder cancer which have been diagnosed since 2007. Thus, at least 67 cases of bladder cancer have occurred in the workers from this one Goodyear plant in Niagara Falls, New York.

The plant in Germany, the DuPont plant in New Jersey, and the Goodyear plant in New York had one chemical in common: ortho-toluidine. This is a liquid chemical from the "aromatic amine" family which is used as an intermediate in the manufacture of dyes, rubber chemicals, and other chemicals. At the Goodyear plant, NIOSH has repeatedly stated that ortho-toluidine is "more likely to be responsible for the observed bladder cancers." The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has concluded that "ortho-toluidine is carcinogenic to humans" and has given the chemical its highest classification, "Group 1," because "ortho-toluidine causes cancer of the urinary bladder." The United States National Toxicology Program (NTP) has classified ortho-toluidine as "known to be a human carcinogen," NTP’s most severe category for a carcinogen.


In the United States, the three leading manufacturers of ortho-toluidine were Allied Chemical, DuPont, and First Chemical. None of these companies manufacture this chemical today. Unfortunately, the damage has been done.


As early as 1934, DuPont’s medical director urged the "adoption of a completely closed and properly ventilated process" for the handling of chemicals such as ortho-toluidine. But DuPont never issued any warnings or instructions for the safe use of ortho-toluidine until 1977. Moreover, DuPont never informed its customers of the risk of bladder cancer. Consequently, significant exposure to ortho-toluidine continued in the United States through at least 1990 when the first results of the NIOSH investigation of the Goodyear plant were released.


The law firm of Steven H. Wodka has handled more worker bladder cancer product liability claims than any other law firm in the United States. In Western New York, we have had a long association with Buffalo attorney John Lipsitz in representing the Goodyear workers from the Niagara Falls plant. In New Jersey, we have represented workers with bladder cancer from the Morton International plant in Paterson, New Jersey and from Passaic Color & Chemical, also in Paterson. ​

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, Niagara Falls, NY

Goodyear Department 245 Chemical Reactor

Morton International, Paterson, NJ