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The paper by Guha et al (in press) on the risk of bladder cancer in painters, which appears in this issue of OEM,1 is important on several grounds. Starting with the more general reasons, it is a clear example of how reporting scientific information in detail, with extensive analyses of the available data, is an exercise in ‘deliberative democracy’. A certain simplification of scientific messages, such as the use of the words ‘carcinogenic’ or ‘non-carcinogenic’, does not help in decision-making if it is divorced from a complete and intelligent description of the evidence at hand. Simplification of messages, as frequently done by the press or, worse, by actors with a vested interest, implies little consideration of the ability of the lay public to understand scientific facts and their interpretation. The evidence in this case is clearly laid down and is strikingly consistent. Out of 41 studies reviewed, 37 show a RR greater than one. Excess risks are found in all continents, in both genders, with different definitions of ‘painter’ and after adjustment by smoking. There is no evidence of publication bias, and there …
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