Twenty-three years to the day after he went to work with vinyl chloride
and other toxic chemicals at a plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana,
Dan Ross died of a rare
brain cancer. He was 46 years old, convinced that his job had killed
His wife, Elaine, sued her husband's former employer and, over the
next decade, the process of legal discovery led deeper and deeper
into the inner chambers of the chemical industry and its Washington
trade association. Hundreds of thousands of pages of documents were
|Dan and Elaine Ross sued. Eventually, their attorney William Baggett, Jr. charged all vinyl chloride-producing companies with conspiracy.|
In TRADE SECRETS: A MOYERS REPORT,
journalist Bill Moyers and producer Sherry
Jones investigated the Ross archive
secrets the chemical industry never intended the public to see
and discovered a shocking story. The confidential papers reveal
the industry's early knowledge of vinyl chloride's dangerous effects,
as well as the industry's long silence on the subject.
The program also reports a much larger story. Buried in the thousands
of pages of documents minutes from board meetings, reports from
industry scientists, internal memoranda is a never-before-told
account of a campaign to limit the regulation of toxic chemicals and
any liability for their effects, at the same that the companies work
to withhold vital information about risks from workers, the government
and the public.
"Almost everyone understands that the chemical revolution of the
last 50 years has increased our standard of living," says Bill
Moyers. "The industry has made sure we know how much they have
done for us. What the industry does not want us to know are the negative
consequences of that revolution."
Over the last five decades, more than 75,000 chemicals have been produced,
turned into consumer products or released into the environment. Today,
every man, woman and child has synthetic chemicals in their bodies.
No child is born free of them.
Are they safe? Does anyone know?
As part of the investigation for TRADE SECRETS, Bill Moyers also took
part in a pilot study sponsored
by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine designed to measure the synthetic
chemicals present in the human body a measurement known as the
"chemical body burden." Even though Moyers has never worked
in a chemical plant or lived near one he learned that
his body contains a chemical soup of 84 industrial chemicals, including
31 different types of PCBs, 13 different dioxins, and pesticides such
as DDT. The study's lead doctor can offer no comfort to Moyers when
he asks how his results compare to the larger public the scientific
data simply does not exist to answer the question.
The documentary portion of the program, which features interviews
with historians, public health officials and workers, is followed by
a panel discussion moderated by Moyers. Among the questions considered
are: What does it mean to have unprecedented combinations of chemicals
in our bodies? How are we exposed to them? Which are the most dangerous
and how can we avoid them? Are women and children at most risk?
What is industry doing to keep us fully informed about the health and
safety effects of chemicals?
Photo Credits: ABCNews VideoSource, Elaine Ross
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