The Chemical Papers: Secrets of the Chemical Industry Exposed (One Million Secret Chemical Industry Papers Released in Court Case)




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Here's an opportunity for you to do a public service for your local community. Distribute the following news release to as many radio stations, television stations, and newspapers in your area as quickly as possible. Thanks for helping Dr. Samuel Epstein and the Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC)

"Trade Secrets": The Latest in a Long Line of
Conspiracies charges Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.

Bill Moyers is to be warmly commended for his March 26 program "Trade Secrets". This PBS Special will document the chemical industry's conspiracy in denying information on the grave cancer risks to hundreds of thousands of workers manufacturing the potent carcinogen vinyl chloride (VC) and its polyvinyl chloride (PVC) product.

As newsworthy is the fact that there is a decades-long track record of numerous such conspiracies involving a wide range of industries and chemicals, besides VC. These conspiracies have resulted in an escalation in the incidence and mortality of cancer, and chronic disease, among workers and the general public unknowingly exposed to toxics and carcinogens in the workplace, air, water and consumer products--food, household products, and cosmetics and toiletries.

This misconduct involves negligence, manipulation, suppression, distortion and destruction of health and environmental data by mainstream industries, their consultants and trade associations, notably the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA). These practices are so frequent as to preclude dismissal as exceptional aberrations and, in many instances, arguably rise to the level of criminality as illustrated below:

  • Suppression of evidence from the early 1960's on the toxicity of VC by Dow Chemical, and on its carcinogenicity from 1970 by the VC/PVC industry and the CMA. Based on these findings, a blue ribbon committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science charged in 1976 that: "Because of the suppression of these data (by the CMA), tens of thousands of workers were exposed without warning--to toxic concentrations of VC".
  • Suppression of evidence since the 1930's on the hazards of asbestos, asbestosis and lung cancer, by Johns-Manville and Raybestos-Manhattan, besides the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. This information was detailed in industry documents dubbed the "Asbestos Pentagon Papers", released at 1978 Congressional Hearings.
  • Suppression by Rohm and Haas of information, known since 1962 but not released until 1971, on the potent carcinogenicity of the resin bischloromethylether. This resulted in deaths from lung cancer of some 50 men, many non-smokers and under the age of 50.
  • Suppression of carcinogenicity data on organochlorine pesticides: Aldrin/Dieldrin, by Shell Chemical Company since 1962; Chlordane/Heptachlor, by Velsicol Chemical Company since 1959; and Kepone, by Allied Chemical Company since the early 1960's.
  • Falsification in the early 1970's of test data on the drug Aldactone and artificial sweetener Aspartame by Hazleton Laboratories under contract to G.D. Searle Company.
  • Falsification and manipulation by Monsanto since the 1960's of data on dioxin, and its contamination of products including the herbicide Agent Orange, designed to block occupational exposure claims and tightening of federal regulations. This evidence was detailed in 1990 by Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Criminal Investigation which charged Monsanto with a "long pattern of fraud" and with reporting "false information" to the Agency.
  • Fraudulent claims by Monsanto since 1985 that genetically engineered (rBGH) milk is indistinguishable from natural milk. These claims persist despite contrary evidence.
  • Monsanto's reckless marketing in 1976 of plastic Coke bottles made from acrylonitrile, a chemical closely related to VC, prior to its testing for carcinogenicity and migration into the Coke. The bottles were subsequently banned after acrylonitrile was found to be a potent carcinogen contaminating the Coke.
  • Destruction of epidemiological data on ethyleneimine and other chemicals by Dow and DuPont. This was admitted at 1973 Department of Labor Advisory Committee meetings in response to challenges to produce data on whose basis industry had falsely claimed that these chemicals were not carcinogens.
  • Destruction of test data on drugs, food additives, and pesticides as admitted in 1977 by Industrial Biotest Laboratories, under contract to major chemical industries.
  • Failure of the mainstream cosmetics and toiletry industries to warn of the wide range of avoidable carcinogenic ingredients, contaminants and precursors in their products used by the great majority of the U.S. population over virtually their lifetimes.

(For supporting documentation of the above charges, see the author's: Testimony on White Collar Crime, H.R. 4973, before the Subcommittee on Crime of the House Judiciary Committee, 12/13/79; The Politics of Cancer, 1979; and The Politics of Cancer, Revisited, 1998.)

Hopefully, the public and the media will be outraged by this longstanding evidence of recklessness and conspiracies, graphically reinforced by Moyers' program. The public and the media should finally hold industry accountable, and demand urgent investigation and radical reform of current industry practices besides governmental unresponsiveness. The Moyers' program has already galvanized formation of a coalition of grassroots citizen groups, "Coming Clean", to demand more responsible and open industry practices, including phasing out the use and manufacture of toxic chemicals. Criticism should also be directed to the multibillion dollar cancer establishment--the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society--for their failure to warn Congress, regulatory agencies and the general public of the scientific evidence on the permeation of the totality of the environment with often persistent industrial carcinogens thus precluding corrective legislation and regulation, besides denying workers and the public of their inalienable right-to-know.

NOTE: PRNewswire, the nation's largest newswire service, who has released Cancer Prevention Coalition's numerous press releases for the last five years, refused to issue this release on "legal grounds".

DATE: March 23, 2001

SOURCE: Cancer Prevention Coalition

CONTACT: Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition and Professor environmental and occupational medicine, University of Illinois School of Public Health, Chicago, 312-996-2297;

Chemical Industry Archives
"The documents America's chemical companies thought you would never read."
A project of Environmental Working Group


Purchase the "Trade Secrets" video at

Read a transcript of the program at


Rich Murray: Moyers:
PBS American chemical industry expose 3.26.1 rmforall

This investigative report to be broadcast Monday, March 26.   "Trade Secrets: A Moyers Report"

Moyers: PBS expose of  the American chemical industry    3-24-1

In 'Trade Secrets: A Moyers Report' correspondent Bill Moyers and producer Sherry Jones uncover how our health and safety have been put at risk and why powerful forces don't want the truth to be known.

This investigative report to be broadcast Monday, March 26, accompanied by a Web site, is based on a massive archive of secret industry documents as shocking as the "tobacco papers."

"Almost 80 percent of Americans think that the government tests chemicals for safety, which is untrue. Aside from chemicals directly added to food or drugs, there are no health and safety studies required before a chemical is manufactured, sold or used in commercial or retail products. The same is true for cosmetic products and the chemicals in them."

The Chemical Papers: Secrets of the Chemical Industry Exposed    By Don Hazen, AlterNet 3-24-1

Bill Moyers TV special to reveal how the public was kept in the dark about the dangers of toxic chemicals.

Every powerful story about fighting for truth and justice has its heroes. This story, a tale of the secrets and lies behind America's chemical industry, is no exception.

Like Erin Brockovich, the paralegal-turned-movie icon who fought against toxic polluters in California, Elaine Ross was determined to uncover the truth. Ross wanted to know what had killed her husband, a chemical plant worker in the bayous of Louisiana, at the untimely age of 46. She teamed up with crusading lawyer William "Billy" Baggett, Jr, the son of a famous Southern litigator, and together they have become central figures in a David-and-Goliath battle to protect the health of all Americans, especially workers.

Now, in the latest chapter of the story, a team led by Bill Moyers has created a PBS special report called "Trade Secrets" that will air on Monday evening, March 26. The special, based on a secret archive of chemical industry documents, explores the industry pattern of obfuscating, denying and hiding the dangerous effects of chemicals on unsuspecting workers and consumers.

At its core, the Moyers show asks a deeply troubling question: With more than 75,000 synthetic chemicals having been released into the environment, what happens as our bodies absorb them, and how can we protect ourselves? As part of the report, Moyers took tests designed to measure the synthetic chemicals in his body -- a measurement known as "chemical body burden." Moyers learned that his body contained 31 different types of PCBs, 13 different toxins and pesticides such as malathion and DDT.

When it hits the air, the Moyers special is expected to re-energize veteran health activists and medical professionals in their fight against a growing problem -- unregulated and untested chemicals flooding the commercial market place. This public heat, coupled with a burgeoning grassroots resistance to chemical producers, may set the industry on the defensive like never before ... but that's getting ahead of the story.

Legal Battle in the Bayou

Elaine Ross's husband, Dan, spent 23 years working at the Conoco (later Vista) chemical plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana. After being diagnosed with brain cancer, according to Jim Morris of the Houston Chronicle, "Dan Ross came to believe that he had struck a terrible bargain, forfeiting perhaps 30 years of his life through his willingness to work with vinyl chloride, used to make one of the world's most common plastics." "Just before he died [in 1990] he said, 'Mama, they killed me,'" recalled Elaine. "I promised him I would never let Vista or the chemical industry forget who he was."

And she hasn't. She teamed up with Billy Baggett to file a wrongful death suit against Vista. Baggett won a multimillion-dollar settlement for Ross in 1994, but she wasn't satisfied with just the money. She knew that her husband's death wasn't an isolated incident -- that many other chemical plant workers were dead, dying or sick because their employers weren't telling them about potential health hazards. And Vista certainly wasn't the only culprit.

So Ross told Baggett to take the fight to the next level. Baggett did, suing 30 companies and trade associations including the Chemical Manufacturers Association (now called the American Chemistry Council) for conspiracy, alleging that they hid and suppressed evidence of vinyl chloride-related deaths and diseases.

As a result of the litigation brought on Ross's behalf, Baggett has been able to obtain what he says is more than a million previously secret industry documents over the past decade. These "Chemical Papers," as they are becoming known, chronicled virtually the entire history of the chemical industry, much of it related to vinyl chloride -- minutes of board meetings, minutes of committee meetings, consultant reports, and on and on.

According to Jim Morris of the Chronicle, the documents suggested that major chemical manufacturers closed ranks in the late 1950s to contain and counteract evidence of vinyl chloride's toxic effects. "They depict a framework of dubious science and painstaking public relations, coordinated by the industry's main trade association with two dominant themes: Avoid disclosure and deny liability." The chemical companies were hiding the fact that they had "subjected at least two generations of workers to excessive levels of a potent carcinogen that targets the liver, brain, lungs and blood-forming organs."

"Even though they (the chemical companies) may be competitive in some spheres, in others they aren't," Baggett told Morris. "They have a mutual interest in their own employees not knowing (about health effects), in their customers not knowing, in the government not knowing."

Jim Morris   Center to Protect Workers' Rights 202-962-8490
1998 Houston Chronicle  "In Strictest Confidence:
The Chemical Industry's Secrets"

"There was a concerted effort to hide this material," said Dr. David Rosner, a professor of public health and history at Columbia University who has reviewed many of the documents as part of a research project. "It's clear there was chicanery."
David Rosner Professor of History
(212) 304-7979     Office: School of Public Health.

And while the documents show that the industry freely shared health information among themselves, "the companies were evasive with their own employees and the government," wrote Morris. "They were unwilling to disrupt the growing market for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, used in everything from pipe to garden hoses." The whole case and others like it "accentuate the problem of occupational cancer, which, by some estimates, takes more lives (50,000) each year than AIDS, homicide or suicide, but receives far less attention."

"What I hope to achieve, through Billy, is that every man who works in a chemical plant is told the truth and tested on a regular basis in the proper manner," Elaine Ross told the Chronicle. "I want the chemical companies to be accountable for every little detail that they don't tell these men."

In a prepared statement, the Chemical Manufacturers Association called such charges "irresponsible." The group said that it promotes a policy of openness among its members.

From Courtroom to Television Set

Award-winning TV producer Sherry Jones, who got access to the treasure trove of chemical company archives, started deeply probing the industry and its secret ways. She brought her findings to Bill Moyers, with whom she had previously worked.

Moyers agreed that the story needed to be told. The result of their collaboration is "Trade Secrets," the 90 minute special that will be followed by a 30 minute roundtable discussion among industry representatives and advocates for public health and environmental justice. Coming as it does on Monday night, March 26 -- the night after the Academy Awards, where Julia Roberts may very well receive an Oscar for her portrayal of Erin Brockovich -- this one-two punch of mass audience attention could deal the chemical industry quite a blow. Meanwhile, the U.S. Center for Disease Control has released its "National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals" (available at The report, based on new technology that measures chemcials directly in blood and urine, has found a wide range of dangerous chemcials present in most humans.

Citizen activists and health experts have been fighting for decades to protect their families from untested and unsafe synthetic chemicals. It has been a difficult battle, due in part to public misconceptions. Almost 80 percent of Americans think that the government tests chemicals for safety, which is untrue. Aside from chemicals directly added to food or drugs, there are no health and safety studies required before a chemical is manufactured, sold or used in commercial or retail products. The same is true for cosmetic products and the chemicals in them.

So if the government isn't regulating chemical safety, who is? Unfortunately, the chemical industry itself.

As health advocates have long complained, this self-regulation simply isn't enough. "For the most part, we rely on chemical companies to vouch for the safety of their products," says public health advocate Charlotte Brody, a former nurse. "That's like relying on the tobacco industry to assess the risk of tobacco." Take the case of Dursban, Dow Chemical's indoor insecticide product. Even after 276 people filed lawsuits claiming that they were poisoned by Dursban, Dow didn't reveal information about the product that proved its toxicity. When the truth finally came out in 1996, the company was fined a miniscule $740,000 by the Feds for withholding information from public officials.

Critics have long said that strong government regulations would have prevented such fiascoes, and with "Trade Secrets" and the Chemical Papers as ammunition, they may be closer to getting their wish than ever before.

Taking the Chemical Industry to Task

Using the Moyers special as a rallying point, a coalition of grassroots groups called "Coming Clean" has bonded together to oppose the chemical industry. In early March, dozens of national leaders -- health professionals, scientists, activists and media experts -- gathered for a weekend retreat in Northern Virginia to plan the elements of this long-term assault. Charlotte Brody, currently Coming Clean's head organizer, expressed the anger and outrage behind the meeting.

Charlotte  Brody, RN
Center for Health and Environmental Justice  703-237-2249

"For decades, chemical companies kept secret the hazards of chemicals they produce," Brody said. "These chemicals are in our food, our water, the air we breathe. Now, they're in all of us. Every child on Earth is born with these synthetic chemicals in their bodies, and only a small percentage of these chemicals have been adequately tested."

Dr. Mark Mitchell, a physician from Hartford, Connecticut and one of the leaders of the national effort, insisted that to protect ourselves and our children from the harm of toxic chemicals, "We must phase out all dangerous chemicals over the next 10 years, beginning with those for which there are safer alternatives. And we must stop making the same mistakes, by prohibiting the introduction of any new chemicals that pose a threat to our health and our children's health. There also needs to be government action to insure the right to know about toxic chemicals, production, use and test results."

Mark Mitchell, M.D., M.P.H.
Director, Connecticut  Coalition for Environmental Justice

As a first step, Coming Clean plans to engage the public with the message of "Trade Secrets." All across the country, thousands of events and viewing parties are being organized, timed to coincide with the Moyers show. The events harken back to the campaign surrounding the 1980s nuclear holocaust film, "The Day After," which galvanized a vanguard of anti-nuke activists to oppose the arms race.

"The local viewing parties will give people a chance to talk about the film after they see it," says Stacy Malkan, Coming Clean's media coordinator. "Rather than going to bed angry, they can discuss the issues with other concerned neighbors, and then channel their outrage and ideas into powerful grassroots coalitions."

Momentum around the Moyers special seems to be picking up. The Whole Foods supermarket chain has agreed to carry Coming Clean's flyers in every one of their stores, and many email listservs, chat rooms and message boards are buzzing about the March 26 show. While most viewings will happen in private homes, activists in dozens of cities -- from Anchorage to Austin to Biddeford, Maine -- are holding public viewing events. In Ann Arbor, for example, a public viewing will be held in an organic brew pub. In Buffalo, New York, environmental and labor leaders will stage a public showing, and will use it as an opportunity to recognize three local whistle blowers battling pollution and environmental injustice. And in San Francisco, where breast cancer rates are among the highest in the country, Mayor Willie Brown, Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Barbara Boxer will all watch the show at the public library.

Eventually, the coalition hopes to harness the public outcry to push for government regulations and class action suits against the chemical giants. Some organizers are hoping that Congress finally wakes up and focuses a spotlight on the chemical industry, while others are calling for corporate accountability.

"The American people deserve to know what chemical executives knew and when they knew it," said Gary Cohen, a leader of the Boston-based Environmental Health Fund and co-coordinator of the group Health Care Without Harm.   Gary Cohen

The Chemical Industry Backlash

In all likelihood, the chemical industry will trudge out familiar responses to "Trade Secrets." They will bring in experts to argue the scientific validity of chemical poisoning. They will say, for example, that doses are so low that animals would have to drink 50,000 bathtubs of contaminated water to suffer any harm. But health professionals counter that small doses can have measurable impact in humans, and that people are often more sensitive to toxic substances than test animals. Furthermore, no tests have been done on the cumulative, long term effects of small doses.

The industry also likes to tell the public that it has changed since the 50's, 60's and '70s, when chemical companies stonewalled every request for information or hint of danger. Of course, major incidents like the debacle over Dursban undermine that claim. Thus, despite millions of dollars of effort over the years, the public ranks the industry next to last in terms of public confidence (trailing only the tobacco industry).

So the chemical industry has essentially abandoned it's efforts to change public opinion. As in most industries with health and safety issues, the chemical giants focus instead directly on Congress, where lobbying and campaign contributions are often more effective ways to wage their battle. Their goal is a simple one: to make sure that no laws would ever require them to perform health and safety testing for the compounds they produce.

Needless to say, they have been totally successful thus far. But the time may be ripe for change. Polls show public sentiment is increasingly anti-corporate. According to a recent Business Week poll, 82 percent of the public feels that corporations wield too much power. According to a recent Roper poll, half the population feels that environmental regulations haven't gone far enough. With the chemical industry at the bottom of the public's "good corporate citizen" list, a critical mass of citizens may soon come together to fight back.
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Karen Perry  Associate Director, Environment & Health Program
Physicians for Social Responsibility
1101 14th Street, NW  Suite 700  Washington, DC 20005
(202) 898-0150 x249    (202) 898-0172 (fax)



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