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Action Alert: Ask U.S. Congress for Hearing on Chemical Industry

March 30, 2001

Moyers Report on the U.S. Chemical Industry Prompts Call for
Congressional Hearings

A recent investigative report on the chemical industry by U.S.
journalist Bill Moyers has spurred calls from a wide range of U.S.
groups for immediate congressional hearings.

The video documentary Trade Secrets, which aired March 26 on the
U.S. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), details several decades of
effort on the part of the chemical industry to hide clear scientific
evidence showing dangerous health effects of exposure to various
chemical products. The report is based on secret documents released
by the industry in response to a wrongful death lawsuit in
Louisiana. The suit was brought by the wife of Dan Ross, a worker
who died of a rare brain cancer after working in a vinyl chloride
production plant.

The report shows that, beginning in the late 1950s, industry
executives suppressed evidence that several rare cancers and other
systemic illnesses were linked to exposure to vinyl chloride. Health
effects were found at exposure levels much lower than those
experienced by workers and, in some cases, consumers.

The documents also show that government actions to limit exposure
to one chemical, benzene, were delayed for years due to the chemical
industry's coordinated efforts to undermine the scientific consensus
regarding the link between benzene exposure and leukemia.

The show also highlighted the pesticide DBCP. Industry documents
confirm that the manufacturing companies, Dow Chemical Company and
Shell Chemical Company knew in the late 1950s that exposure to DBCP
could cause testicular atrophy and sterility. Workers, however, did
not learn of the reproductive hazards until 1977, when sterility
among 35 workers in one plant was linked to DBCP exposure.

On the political front, the report highlights confidential memos and
meeting minutes from the Chemical Manufacturers Association (now
the American Chemistry Council) detailing an industry campaign to
block citizen "right to know" initiatives at the state level. More than
US$4 million, for example, was spent to defeat an initiative in the
state of Ohio that would require that chemicals be tested for
carcinogenicity and reproductive effects (including birth defects),
and also require consumer notification of those test results.

The successful adoption of such legislation in California (Proposition
65) spurred industry efforts to block further laws. Major U.S.
pesticide producing companies such as Dow Chemical Company
and Monsanto were active participants in these and other efforts to
influence legislation and regulations.

Industry has responded to the report by arguing that it was not
balanced, and that the industry's practices have improved
tremendously since the 1960s and 1970s, when most of the
documents were produced. They assert that all of their products
are thoroughly tested and safe, for both consumers and workers.

According to public health practitioners quoted in the documentary,
however, nearly half of the chemical products considered "high
volume production" (a total of over 3,000 products) have never
been tested.

The Moyers report also highlights the chemical industry's launch
of a voluntary testing program in the late 1990s, through which the
industry committed to spend millions of dollars testing products
for various health effects and to submit the results to the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA). Moyers reports that to date, no results
of this testing program have been submitted.

Organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada concerned with
environmental health issues organized more than 100 public viewings
of the Moyers documentary in 28 states, Washington, DC and Ontario.

The resulting Coming Clean campaign is now calling for congressional
hearings of the chemical industry
, focusing on the historical
evidence represented by the documents and specifically on the clear
evidence of the chemical industry's efforts to suppress scientific
results and to limit legislative and regulatory restrictions on
their industry.

Congress is also being asked to investigate the possibility that
chemical industry executives have additional information about
the health effects of their products that they have not made public.

As a member organization of the Coming Clean campaign, PAN
North America urges our U.S. affiliates and supporters to contact
their legislators and call for congressional hearings of the chemical

For further information on the Coming Clean campaign and to send a
message to your legislator, visit

For more information about Trade Secrets or to purchase the video,

To view the secret industry documents, visit

Sources: PANNA, PBS press release (March 29, 2001), American
Chemistry Council press release (March 26, 2001).

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Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102 USA
Phone: (415) 981-1771
Fax: (415) 981-1991