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The Evidence

The "precautionary principle" – adopted by the European Union in 1992 as the basis for regulation of toxic chemicals –- holds that in the face of scientific uncertainty, government should err on the side of protecting public health and safety. In other words, if scientific evidence indicates there is a good chance that a chemical may pose a risk of irreversible harm, regulators should not wait for absolute proof before acting.

One of the major themes running through the internal chemical industry documents investigated in TRADE SECRETS: A MOYERS REPORT is the industry's opposition to the precautionary principle. It has used its wealth to win favorable treatment from politicians, sponsored surrogates to promote the industry point of view with the media, and now is quietly pushing legislation through state legislatures that will overturn many of the gains citizens believe they have made in their right to information about toxic chemicals.

The chemical industry long kept secret vital information about the potential health effects of some of its manufacturing processes and some of its products. When challenged by citizens' initiatives to reveal those secrets, it mounted extensive – and expensive – campaigns to defeat them.
In its decades-long effort to limit the regulation of chemicals, the industry's Washington trade association declared: "This is war – not a battle."
Regulatory War
Money and Politics
"PAC contributions improve access to members," a 1980 CMA document exhorts. Since then, the chemical industry has contributed at least $117 million to help elect Senators, congressmen and Presidents.
Money and Politics

CMA Protest
In the late 1980s, people began to agitate for the right to know more about the chemicals that they and their children were being exposed to.

In Strictest Confidence
The Chemical Industry's Secrets by Jim Morris, 1998 Houston Chronicle

Toxic Ignorance (pdf) by David Roe and William S. Pease, Environmental Defense

Excerpt from Trust Us, We're Experts by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, (c)Center for Media and Democracy

"The Alar Scare was Real"
(c) Elliott Negin 1996, Reprinted from Columbia Journalism Review, Sept./Oct. 1996

Trade Secrets Documents

Photo Credits: WGBH-TV Boston, CMA

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