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Fiction #3: 'That was the old chemical industry. We've changed our ways.'


The old industry was really bad. The new one is just as bad, but has better PR.

Dursban

In 1996, Dow chemical was fined (a paltry) $732,000 for withholding from federal officials, information it had obtained via lawsuits filed against the company on behalf of 276 individuals poisoned with the insecticide Dursban. Concealing this information was a clear violation of the law, which requires manufacturers to submit any information they have on the adverse effects of their pesticides. Dow argued that it didn't consider these 276 poisonings adverse effects. By withholding these data from health authorities, Dow was able to perpetuate a false image of safety for the product for more than 10 years, during which time thousands of additional people were exposed. Within six months of receipt of this information from Dow the EPA cancelled the two most hazardous Dursban products. Four years later, the EPA pressured Dow to phase-out all indoor uses of the products. Dow never conceded that Dursban represented any risks under normal use, and characterized the phase-out as a market decision (EWG 2001).

Scotchgard

For 23 years, from 1976 to 1998, 3M executives had information that the U.S. population was contaminated with fluorinated chemicals like those in the stain repellent Scotchgard. Animal studies done in the early 1980's showed serious liver toxicity and carcinogenic effects, but the company took no action to monitor or reduce human exposure. When animal studies showed disastrous results in reproduction studies - all the exposed test animals in the high dose group died within a day of birth - 3M agreed to phase out Scotchgard over 3 years. For this behavior, 3M has been praised as a model corporate citizen. (EPA 2001).

Genetically modified food

Many giant chemical companies are developing genetically modified foods and other products, commonly known as GMOs. The strategies employed in product development and market entry for GMOs are strikingly similar to those that gave birth to the chemical revolution. The initial market objective was to eliminate all health and safety testing requirements. This was achieved when the FDA granted industry's request that genetically modified food be treated as substantially equivalent to unmodified food, unless specifically identified as different by industry. A determination of substantial equivalence means that no safety testing is required before the food is marketed. As with chemicals, this wholesale absence of information has not stopped the industry from issuing broad assurance of safety.

References

Environmental Working Group. 2001. http://www.bandursban.org

Environmental Protection Agency. Administrative Record 226. 2001.

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last updated: march.27.2009

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