In 1977, the head of the National Peach Council, Robert K. Phillips, sent the following letter to the U.S. Department of Labor protesting their proposed ban on the pesticide DBCP, which had been found to cause sterility among male agricultural workers who handled it. Phillips noted that some men might actually want to become sterile, so for them infertility would be a welcome benefit of the job.
To: Dr. Eula Bingham, Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health
Recently we received the interesting DOL news release concerning worker exposure to DBCP.
It appears to us that you and Secretary Marshall may have overreacted, or at least that is your public posture.
While involuntary sterility caused by a manufactured chemical may be bad, it is not necessarily so. After all, there are many people who are now paying to have themselves sterilized to assure they will no longer be able to become parents.
How many of the workers who have become sterile were of an age that they would have been likely to have children anyway? How many were past the age when they would want to have children? These, too, are important questions.
If possible sterility is the main problem, couldn't workers who were old enough that they no longer wanted to have children accept such positions voluntarily? They could know the situation, and it wouldn't matter. Or could workers be advised of the situation, and some might volunteer for such work posts as an alternative to planned surgery for a vasectomy or tubal ligation, or as a means of getting around religious bans on birth control when they want no more children.
We do believe in safety in the work place, Dr. Bingham, but there can be good as well as bad sides to a situation.
Above all, please don't try to get a ban on the manufacture and sale of the chemical DBCP, because that would cause some losses of agricultural production which would be serious.
Robert K. Phillips
Executive Secretary, National Peach Council
Despite Phillips's appeal, DBCP got banned anyway, because in addition to the sterility it was linked to various cancers. More info: NY Times
, Multinational Monitor
Mother Jones - Apr 1978