Wilhelm C Hueper

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Wilhelm Hueper was said to be "the father of environmental cancer prevention". He is one of the heroes of environmental health. For many years he worked at the National Cancer Institute, and was an outspoken opponent of asbestos mining practices and also the uses of asbestos in the oil industry. He appears to have been muzzled by industry opponents (mainly through Anthony J Lanza acting for the mining, oil, railways, etc) in the late 1960s, which could explain his transformation. He probably believed that tobacco smoke was only a minor problem, and secondary only in lung cancer causation. [1]

Throughout the 1970s he was also secretly a tobacco industry lobbyist who was paid by the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR) (the successor to the TIRC ), not in the normal way -- which would have involved scrutiny by the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) -- but through the tobacco industry's secret Special Account #4 which was handled by the Ad Hoc Committee of company lawyers. This was to ensure that the scientist/academic remained 'untainted' and could be used as a witness in court cases, or present himself at Congressional or local ordinance hearings as an authority who was 'independent' of tobacco industry influences.

Documents & Timeline

1942 Hueper's first book on occupational cancer which established his reputation. He said that the great majority of occupational cancers were caused by carcinogens introduced in industrial processes in the first half of the 20th C. The main one in the petroleum refinery industry was asbestos used as lagging around pipes and also used by the drillers in "mud".[2]

1948 Heuper was Chief of the Environmental Cancer Section, at the National Cancer institute. In 1948 he presented at an American Public Health Association meeting and referred to 'asbestos and other substances as carcinogens'. He then published a lengthy monograph Environmental Cancer. He was concerned with oil fractions also.

1949 A Scientific American article by Conklin named asbestos unambiguously as a carcinogen.

1967Shell created its own asbestos handling rules in the absence of any government proclamation

1952 Cancer Research published "Environmental Cancers: A Review" by Hueper,

1952 US government mandated air pollution control equipment in asbestos plants

1955 Heuper's monograph "A Quest into the Environmental Causes of Cancer of the Lungs" dealt mainly with asbestos. He pointed out that lung cancer cases were more than three times as numerous among "operating" railroad workers (engineers, firemen, brakemen, conductors, switchmen and roundhouse personnel) than"non-operating" workers. Yet the firmer group made up only about 25% of the workforce. Hueper suspected oil and coal combustion produce as a cause of occupational cancers. [3]

1956 Aug 21 A New York Times story "Cancer Is Traced to Food Additives" states that Dr Wilhelm Hueper was the principal author of an announcement by the International Union Against Cancer in Rome. [the following re-translated from a German book.]

The New York Times reported that the group had declared that mineral oils and paraffin waxes used as coatings on milk containers were carcinogenic to both humans and experimental animals. (They came from oil refineries)

The highest powers in the American Petroleum Institute were mindful of "misquotation and misinterpretation" of Hueper's statement causing "unfortunate publicity." API decided to sponsor research, but was not interested in working with Hueper. Twenty four wax samples sent by the Milk Industry Foundation to Dr Hueper were passed on to Dr Philippe Shubik for chemical analysis (he found 4 parts per milllion carcinogenic materials in one sample."

"Dr Hueper indicated he was willing to wait (on reporting this fact) provided the industry was willing to approach this problem with a reasonable and rational attitude -- provided he was kept informed of the results of any work which was done."

Shubik's lab in Chicago Medical School received over $500,000 in API research funding for work on waxes. Heuper sent samples of the waxes he had received from the milk industry to others to analyze, and there was some publicity when the results were published. Shubik then accompanied members of the API Wax Research Advisory Committee to get the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare to reassure the public (Nov 9 1959).

[4] Castleman book repeatedly emphasises that Dr Hueper was the world's foremost authority on environmental cancer. And the evidence appears to support this claim. However Phillipe Shubik did his analysis and Thomas F Mancuso wrote the original foreword to this book (1984), and both were also a recipient of tobacco industry payments via Special Account #4. It becomes difficult to understand the ethics at these times.]

1964 Dr Irving Selikoff was presenting a paper on cancer among asbestos insulation workers at the New York Academy of Science Conferernce. the industry had advanced notice of what he would say in 1963.

1964 Hueper wrote

"Cancers of all types and causes display, even under already existing conditions, all the characteristics of an epidemic in slow motion. Through a continued, unrestrained, needless, avoidable and in part reckless increasing contamination of the human environment with chemical and physical carcinogens, and with chemicals supporting and potentiating their action, the stage is beig set indeed for a future occurrence of a catastrophic epidemic, which once present cannot be effectively checked for decades with the means available, nor can its course apprecialbly be altered once it has been set in motion.


1971 Feb 28 The audit for the CTR's secret Special Account #4 (six months only) shows: Disbursements :-
Consultants' Fees and Expenses :-

Auditing ...................$ 225.00 ........... $17,257.29
Cash in Bank - Feb 28 1971 ........ $54,674.64
[Note: there was also a $500 reimbursement to the Canadian Tobacco Industry for a sum advanced to Dr Rene Cederlof [2]

1972 The OSHA finally promulgated an asbestos standard, following many years of work by Hueper.

1985 Feb In its political submissions Smokers United (A major smoker's rights organisation funded by the tobacco industry) was quoting Hueper on the harmlessness of passive smoking.[3]

  1. "Muzzling Dr Hueper and Ensuring Hazardous Industries" in the book "Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects" By Barry I. Castleman
  2. Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects By Barry I. Castleman
  3. "A Quest into the Environmental Causes of Cancer of the Lungs" Washington: Public Health Service Publication 1955
  4. Asbestos: Medical and Legal Aspects by Barry I Castleman 5th Ed 2005