Myth 2: There have been over 1,400 cancer deaths as a result of oil pollution
The cancer claims made by Richard Cabrera is one of the most shocking examples of the absurdity of his work. Cabrera, a mining engineer with no experience or training in oilfield remediation work, was appointed by the court to assess possible environmental damage.
This is an environmental remediation case, and none of the 48 named plaintiffs have claims for cancer or related damages.
In fact, in sworn declarations (see here and here) filed in April 2013 by environmental consultants from Boulder, Colo.-based Stratus Consulting, the Stratus scientists testify that the plaintiffs’ lawyers not only contrived to falsify environmental damages claims, but that “…the conclusion that there were 1,400 ‘excess cancer’ deaths near the oil operations area is invalid and unsupported.” A Stratus scientist further claims not to be “aware of any credible scientific evidence that supports the statement that cancer rates were up to 30 times higher than normal, or that the incidence of childhood leukemia was found to have reached alarming levels.”
Nonetheless, Cabrera assessed more than $9.5 billion in damages for “excess cancer deaths,” yet failed to identify a single victim or provide any corroborating documentation, such as death certificates or medical diagnoses.
Instead, Cabrera based his cancer claims on self-serving answers to ad hoc surveys administered to the local population in secrecy by unknown individuals. The survey asked leading questions like “what [do] you think should be demanded of Texaco Petroleum as relief of the damages suffered?”
Additionally, Mr. Cabrera makes obvious math errors in his calculations and incorrectly interprets his own survey data to obtain falsely high rates of cancer. He lumps all types of cancers together, even though there is no evidence linking components of crude oil to most of the cancer types reported, including stomach and uterine cancer – the two most common cancers reported in the surveys. These are also the two most common types of cancers in Ecuador.
Cabrera’s conclusions are contradicted by official Ecuador statistical data on cancer mortality, which show there is no increased cancer risk in the oil-producing areas compared to non-oil producing regions of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The cancer rate calculated by Cabrera is more than 250 times higher than the rate reported by Ecuador’s government. View an analysis of cancer mortality and oil production in the Amazon Region of Ecuador.
This isn’t the first time lawyers who have been involved in this case have tried to bring cancer claims against Chevron. In 2007, a U.S. federal court for the Northern District of California threw out a similar complaint against Chevron allegedly filed on behalf of Ecuadorians from the Oriente region. The case was dismissed after it was discovered that the plaintiffs had never been diagnosed with cancer and they testified that they did not even know that a suit had been filed in their names.