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Polling, PR and propaganda: How the chemical industry creates 'Public Perception'

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"[What W]e propose is a person skilled in communication with women. The chemical industry very badly needs the support of this specialized and numerous group... The loyalty of women can help us tremendously if they understand the facts about food additives, labelling [sic], water pollution and even plant safety."
- Public Relations Advisory Committee, February 1961 (view entire document)

For half a century, the chemical industry has waged a high-stakes, high-priced public relations war against the American public. The industry has used every trick in the PR business with polling, focus groups, news media outreach, propaganda materials such as videos, pamphlets and speakers' programs, paid advertising, promotion of pro-industry scientific experts and research, and most of all, greenwashing - PR campaigns that hype chemical makers' "environmental commitment" while hiding the truth about their toxic pollution.

EWG analysis of internal industry documents shows that from 1952 to 1996 the Chemical Manufacturers Association (now known as the "American Chemistry Council") spent an estimated $185 million to shape public opinion (inflation adjusted dollars). In many years, the budget was well over $10 million.

These figures don't include the PR and ad campaigns of major CMA member companies such as DuPont, Dow Chemical and General Electric, who spend millions each year on their own; CMA's political lobbying and "grassroots" outreach programs; and the industry's sizeable political contributions. According to OpenSecrets.org these contributions reached a total of $38 million to federal candidates from 1990 to 2000.

The Chemical Industry Archives reveal for the first time not only the size of the CMA's PR effort but its scope, and the industry's determination to win the public opinion war at any cost. The documents paint a portrait of an industry whose objective is to polish its image and increase its profits without due regard for the consequences to public health and the environment.

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last updated: march.27.2009

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The Chemical Industry Archives is a project of the Environmental Working Group.
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