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01/29/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Environmental Lawyer Al Meyerhoff's Chemical War On Cancer

Before his passing on Dec. 21, environmental lawyer Al Meyerhoff wrote an op-ed for the LA Times, discussing what he called the "irony" of being diagnosed with leukemia and relying on chemicals to wage a "war on cancer" after a lifetime of fighting against wider use of chemicals believed to be dangerous and carcinogenic:

I have leukemia. Those must be among the most frightening words in the English language. My particular form of the disease, called acute myeloid leukemia, was diagnosed a few weeks ago. It was a shock but not a complete surprise. About a year ago, I was found to have a rare blood disorder called myelodysplastic syndrome, which attacks red blood cells, causing anemia. My form of that disorder had only about a 5% chance of morphing into AML. It beat the odds.

Leukemia was once a death sentence. No more. Through a combination of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, it now is actually curable. Sometimes.

The rest of his op-ed, "Chemicals: Our champions, our killers" is available on the LA Times' site.

Meyerhoff's obituary in the LA Times recounted his character and battles:

"He was a rare combination of intellect, passion, humor, creativity and absolute commitment to the public interest, particularly those less fortunate in terms of economic and social circumstances," Reynolds said. "He had a brilliant mind and a heart as big as a Volkswagen."

To pressure the chemical industry to agree to tougher standards on pesticides, Meyerhoff invoked a little-used Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act amendment that prohibited animal carcinogens in processed foods.

"The tactic forced a crisis requiring the industry to negotiation," Meyerhoff later recounted, and led to the Food Quality Protection Act, which resulted in the ban of several dozen carcinogenic pesticides.