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Chemical Industry Secrets

Press Release
Environmental Working Group
March 27, 2001


Washington, March 27- Fifty years of confidential chemical company memos, letters, reports and meeting minutes reveal an industry that continues to this day to mislead the public about toxic chemical hazards and exposures, an environmental research group said today.

The Environmental Working Group posted more than 35,000 pages of internal chemical company documents online for the first time, in the Chemical Industry Archives at

"These are documents America's chemical companies never wanted the public to read," said Kenneth Cook, president of EWG. "Their own words make clear they have distorted science, hidden information about chemical risks, and fought fiercely to delay, weaken or kill environmental safeguards for five decades."

"We believe these documents show that the chemical industry cannot be trusted to tell the truth about the health and safety risks of the products it makes and the chemical plants it operates," Cook said. "We are calling on Congress to investigate the chemical industry."

Among the hundreds of revelations in the documents:

  • Forty years ago, America's leading chemical companies conspired to keep secret from thousands of beauty shop workers that the clouds of hairspray they applied every day exposed them to high levels of a potent carcinogen.

  • By 1970, Monsanto knew from its own testing that its plant in Anniston, Alabama had severely contaminated rivers, downstream lakes and fish with PCBs. But it kept that information from its neighbors in Anniston for decades, many of whom now have extremely high levels of PCBs in their blood.

  • The documents show how major U.S. chemical companies and their trade associations plotted strategies to defeat or delay almost every major effort to tighten safeguards for workers or protect air, drinking water and wildlife from toxic chemicals or laws.

  • Just last year, the 3M company said it would withdraw the key ingredient in its heavily marketed Scotchgard line from the market. But the company neglected to tell the public that the Scotchgard chemical raised serious health concerns at EPA and had been building up in the blood of Americans for decades. Nor did 3M make clear that the same chemical was not only used on carpets, furniture and clothing, but also in candy bar wrappers, fast food containers and other consumer products.

The group called on 3M to immediately fund an independent blood testing program for manufacturing, wholesale and retail workers who may have been heavily exposed to the Scotchgard chemical over the past 30 years.

EWG is a nonprofit research group known for its computer investigations of environmental problems.

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