He came home from work one day, and
he was taking off his boots and socks, and I looked at his feet.
The whole top of them were burned where the chemicals had gone through
his boots. I said, My God, what was it that goes through leather,
steel-toed boots and your socks to do that? -- Elaine
Fresh out of the Air Force, Dan Ross went to work for a Conoco
vinyl chloride-producing plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1967.
He was a "big ole boy," one of his co-workers described
him, six-foot-six, with thick blond hair and a teasing smile.
Dans widow, Elaine, fell in love at first sight, and after
being married to him for 25 years, she says he could walk into
a room and still take her breath away. But his job was taking
As the years went by you could see it on his face. He started
to get this hollow look under his eyes, and I could always smell
the chemicals on him. I could even smell it on his breath after
a while. But even up until he was diagnosed the first time, he
said, They'll take care of me. They're my friends.
In 1989, Dan Ross was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer.
In the months before he died, Elaine found an exposure report
from the plant listing the kind and amount of chemicals that Dan
was exposed to on one day. A handwritten note reads: Exceeds
short-term exposure, meaning he had been exposed to more
of the dangerous fumes than government standards allowed. Another
handwritten note orders, "Do not include on wire to Houston.
The chemical companys headquarters were located in Houston;
Elaine says she understood the note to mean, Somebodys
trying to cover something up.
They keep all this stuff from them and tell them all the
good things that they're doing for them, but not that they're
killing him. He had a right to know. He had a right to know, and
so does everybody else.
After a first operation to attempt to remove the malignant tumor,
Dan Ross approached the company and asked that they grant him
early retirement, and so the benefit payments that retirement
"He said, 'Just give me my retirement as if I've been here
X amount of years, and let me live what I've got left to live
of my life.' And they said, 'We can't do that.' And he asked them
why. They said because it would set a precedent. It broke
his heart. Had tears in his eyes. And that's when I kind of got
hard against them. You know, they put tears in his eyes, and that
was something that I had never seen."
Dan and Elaine Ross sued. By the time his employers settled, attorney
William Baggett, Jr. had charged all vinyl chloride-producing
companies with conspiracy. Most of them have also settled. But
10 years of legal discovery eventually unearthed more than a
million pages of industry documents.
I promised him that they would never, ever forget who he
was. I promised him that I would never quit trying to let people
know. The truth needs to be told.
Dan Ross in the Air Force
Select a bandwith: 56k | 220k
Dan Ross on his daughter's graduation day
"They hurt somebody that meant more to me than my whole life." - Elaine Ross
Handwritten notes read: "Exceeds short-term exposure" and "Do not include on wire to Houston."
"You start watching him die one piece at a time." Elaine Ross