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Archive of Chemical Industry Secrets Goes Online

on chemical industry expose
The Environmental Working Group has posted online 50 years and 25,000 pages of insider documents that reveal, in their own words, how chemical executives knowingly exposed workers and the public to cancer-causing chemicals, polluted whole communities and devoted vast resources to covering up the truth. The searchable archive of documents is available exclusively at

Journalists and concerned citizens can examine the Chemical Industry Archive to see for themselves how the tragedies of Bhopal and Love Canal were treated as public relations problems, how companies hid the truth about cancer and other diseases from their own workers, and how the industry manipulates science and public opinion to protect its profits.

"These documents could do for the chemical industry's public image what the tobacco papers did to the cigarette companies," said EWG President Ken Cook. "Anyone who reads the documents can tell that chemical companies knew 25 years ago their products were unsafe and that workers were in danger. It's time for Congress to step in and investigate what the industry knows today but isn't telling us."

The level of secrecy, cynicism and calculation documented by the archive is startling. In one instance, a Monsanto memo compares death and illness rates among workers to a baseball box score.

The denial, coverup, and disregard for workers and public health revealed in documents from the 1960s and 1970s continues today. Last year, 3M abruptly discontinued Scotchguard, a $200 million-a-year product. Why would a company suddenly drop one of its most profitable items? The archive reveals that 3M knew since the 1970s that Scotchgard, believed to cause reproductive harm, was contaminating the bloodstream not only of its workers, but the public and wildlife worldwide.

The documents came to light in lawsuits against chemical companies and tire manufacturers for worker deaths and illnesses from exposure to vinyl chloride. Vinyl chloride, one of the building blocks of plastic, causes liver and brain cancer. After dozens of worker deaths, and over the chemical industry's objections that it would go out of business, the U.S. government finally established a strict standard for vinyl chloride exposure in 1976.

As reported in last week's New York Times, the documents reveal that U.S. chemical companies have devoted their vast profits to a variety of influence-peddling and slick PR efforts. The schemes have included setting up fake grassroots groups, thwarting attempts at government regulation by pushing worthless industry self-regulation, sponsoring judicial 'education' seminars, supplying schools with propaganda, sponsoring and manipulating scientific studies, and spending $185 million on public relations and advertising.

Among the stories revealed by the Chemical Industry Archive:

  • The chemical industry, which ranks above only the tobacco industry in degree of public trust, has shifted its propaganda focus from the general public to a more impressionable group whose opinions about the industry are still unformed: school children.

  • Since the passage of California's landmark Proposition 65 toxics disclosure law, the chemical industry has spent millions trying to stop the spread of right-to-know laws to other states.

  • Despite the industry's claims that chemicals are fully tested for safety, chemical companies actually devote vast resources to fighting any attempts to impose mandatory health tests before chemicals are put on the market.

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Albion Monitor April 2, 2001 (

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