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Deceit and Denial

Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution

Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 446
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  • Book Info
    Deceit and Denial
    Book Description:

    Deceit and Denialdetails the attempts by the chemical and lead industries to deceive Americans about the dangers that their deadly products present to workers, the public, and consumers. Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner pursued evidence steadily and relentlessly, interviewed the important players, investigated untapped sources, and uncovered a bruising story of cynical and cruel disregard for health and human rights. This resulting exposé is full of startling revelations, provocative arguments, and disturbing conclusions--all based on remarkable research and information gleaned from secret industry documents.This book reveals for the first time the public relations campaign that the lead industry undertook to convince Americans to use its deadly product to paint walls, toys, furniture, and other objects in America's homes, despite a wealth of information that children were at risk for serious brain damage and death from ingesting this poison. This book highlights the immediate dangers ordinary citizens face because of the relentless failure of industrial polluters to warn, inform, and protect their workers and neighbors. It offers a historical analysis of how corporate control over scientific research has undermined the process of proving the links between toxic chemicals and disease. The authors also describe the wisdom, courage, and determination of workers and community members who continue to voice their concerns in spite of vicious opposition. Readable, ground-breaking, and revelatory,Deceit and Denialprovides crucial answers to questions of dangerous environmental degradation, escalating corporate greed, and governmental disregard for its citizens' safety and health.After eleven years, Markowitz and Rosner update their work with a new epilogue that outlines the attempts these industries have made to undermine and create doubt about the accuracy of the information in this book.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95496-0
    Subjects: Public Health, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Daniel M. Fox and Samuel L. Milbank

    The Milbank Memorial Fund is an endowed national foundation that engages in nonpartisan analysis, study, research, and communication on significant issues in health policy. The Fund makes available the results of its work in meetings with decision makers, reports, articles, and books.

    This is the sixth of the California/Milbank Books on Health and the Public. The publishing partnership between the Fund and the Press seeks to encourage the synthesis and communication of findings from research that could contribute to more effective health policy.

    Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner demonstrate the significance for policy of the methods and findings of historical...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Introduction: Industry’s Child
    (pp. 1-11)

    In the depths of the Depression, with millions of workers unemployed, Annie Lou Emmers, a mother of eleven children, wrote to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt because of his “interest and sympathy for cripples.” Mrs. Emmers’s husband, Frank, was an employee of a pesticide subsidiary of the DuPont Company in Gary, Indiana, and had been lead poisoned on the job and laid off by the company. While Mrs. Emmers accepted this terrible fate for her husband, she could not abide the fact that one of her children, Mary Jane, had been born with extensive physical disabilities and severe mental retardation. Mrs....

  7. 1 The House of the Butterflies: Lead Poisoning among Workers and Consumers
    (pp. 12-35)

    Throughout world history, industry managers and laborers alike understood that work was dangerous. But it was not until the beginning of the twentieth century that reformers began a concerted effort to ameliorate the worst aspects of industrial civilization. The growing concern over safety and health issues for American workers developed during the first decade of the twentieth century in the wake of revolutionary social and economic changes.¹ In little more than three decades Americans had witnessed an unprecedented population explosion in its cities and manufacturing centers. Work for most laborers had become so dangerous that some newspapers and magazines published...

  8. 2 A Child Lives in a Lead World
    (pp. 36-63)

    In the first half of the nineteenth century paint manufacturing was a distinctly local affair, often controlled by druggists, whose access to a variety of mineral compounds and dyes led them to develop paints as a sideline.¹ Paints were composed of two primary materials—the liquid medium (usually linseed oil, turpentine, or flatting oils) and pigments (usually lead, but also zinc, titanium, or other metals). Transporting large amounts of heavy metals like lead from one part of the country to another was an enormous and quite complex task. Manufacturers increasingly found it most expedient to haul their supplies across the...

  9. 3 Cater to the Children: The Promotion of White Lead
    (pp. 64-107)

    The response by the lead industry to reports on the dangers of lead was a cynical thirty-five-year advertising campaign to convince people that lead was safe, and the most insidious part of this campaign was the industry’s marketing to children. Beginning in 1918, just as the studies of the Harriet Lane Home in Baltimore confirmed that lead paint was a danger to children, the industry undertook a sustained advertising and promotion campaign designed, in the words of National Lead’s trade magazine,Dutch Boy Painter,to “cater to the children”¹ while convincing their parents and the public health community that lead...

  10. 4 Old Poisons, New Problems
    (pp. 108-138)

    In the face of overwhelming evidence of lead’s dangers, the lead industry was reluctantly willing by the early 1970s to sacrifice lead in paint. Besides, lead paint was accounting for a smaller and smaller share of the lead market. This was not the case with lead in gasoline, and what had once been a limited crisis over workers and children would emerge as a concern about the health of the entire population. In the 1960s, lead researchers began to absorb the implications of the work of such writers as Rachel Carson, Barry Commoner, and Paul Ehrlich regarding the fragility of...

  11. 5 Better Living through Chemistry?
    (pp. 139-167)

    In the 1940s and 1950s the chemical industry, much like the lead indus-try earlier, undertook an extensive public relations campaign to promote petrochemical products, particularly plastics, as materials that would transform the lives of Americans. Like lead, plastics were promoted as essential to modern American consumer society—vital in the building and maintenance of homes and the production of automobiles, the development of new styles of clothing and modern conveniences. Like lead, these products and their byproducts persisted in the environment, not degrading, penetrating into the food chain, ultimately ending up in the human body.

    But the story of plastics...

  12. 6 Evidence of an Illegal Conspiracy by Industry
    (pp. 168-194)

    In the mid-1960s, as the chemical industry was struggling with how to respond to the general problem of pollution, it discovered a terrifying fact: vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), the basis for polyvinyl chloride (PVC), one of the most widely used plastics, was linked to acroosteolysis, a degenerative bone condition affecting workers in a number of its plants. In the early 1970s the Manufacturing Chemists’ Association (MCA), the industry group representing close to 200 companies, received even more troubling news: secret animal studies performed for European chemical manufacturers showed cancers at surprisingly low levels of exposure to VCM as well.


  13. 7 Damn Liars
    (pp. 195-233)

    The cancer deaths of four workers at the Louisville, Kentucky, B. F. Goodrich plant demonstrated to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that its current standard for vinyl chloride was clearly inadequate. In 1970, OSHA had been given the mandate to “set the standard which most adequately assures, to the extent feasible, on the basis of the best available evidence that no employee will suffer material impairment of health or functional capacity even if such employee has regular exposure . . . for the period of his working life.”¹ After the deaths at the Goodrich vinyl plant were reported,...

  14. 8 Ol’ Man River or Cancer Alley?
    (pp. 234-262)

    While labor unions and consumer advocates were battling the chemical industry in the 1970s, communities around the country began protesting against the industries whose pollution of their air and water was endangering their health. Many of these struggles took place in the South, where a large portion of the chemical industry had found the political and economic environment more friendly to their interests than in the industrialized corridors of the Northeast and Midwest. Also in the 1970s Louisiana emerged as one of the nation’s leading centers of vinyl chloride and polyvinyl chloride production. Louisiana was rich in natural resources and...

  15. 9 A Hazy Mixture: Science, Civil Rights, Pollution, and Politics
    (pp. 263-286)

    Driving south from Baton Rouge on Interstate 10, one passes through suburbs and strip malls and comes to Louisiana Route 44, which winds south to the east bank of the Mississippi River. Route 44 continues past old plantations, monuments to slave rebellions, and an African American history museum housed in an old plantation where gowned ladies give guided tours. Soon the landscape of pastoral towns gives way to giant industrial complexes spread out along what now becomes the River Road. To the west, a huge levee hides the Mississippi River from sight and blocks river access from the desperately poor...

  16. 10 Science and Prudent Public Policy
    (pp. 287-298)

    Environmentalists who might disagree on many issues have been united in their common distrust of chemicals, factories, and new technologies that they believe are radically altering the ecological balance that is the basis for life on this planet. Although such issues rose to new prominence with the debate over global warming, as early as the 1960s and 1970s some of the nation’s leading scientists saw in the new chemicals the potential for ecological catastrophe if they were not controlled.¹ These researchers outlined the many ways chemical pollution was wreaking havoc on our environment: fish were being killed off in the...

  17. Conclusion
    (pp. 299-306)

    Over the course of the twentieth century the tension over industry’s responsibility for ensuring the safety of workers and the general population has only increased. When Mrs. Emmers wrote to President Roosevelt in 1933 asking for help with her child who was disabled from lead poisoning, she did so with little hope that either industry or the government would respond. In fact, she was informed that the government could do nothing except recommend her to charity.

    How different things look today. For one thing, a Mrs. Emmers would not be alone. She would talk to her neighbors, and if they...

  18. Epilogue
    (pp. 307-316)
    Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner

    So began an article in the Chronicle ofHigher Education¹ two years after the publication of the first edition ofDeceit and Denial.Monsanto, Dow, Union Carbide, Goodrich, Goodyear, and Uniroyal, among others, sought to undermine our credibility as scholars and the credibility of the information we documented in our book. These actions, along with others we will detail a bit later, came about because our book had become part of a contentious lawsuit over the responsibility of these companies for workers’ illnesses and deaths. More broadly, these and other controversies were about the responsibility of corporate America for the...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 317-400)
  20. Index
    (pp. 401-420)