When Industry Manipulates Science

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It’s a tactic used by powerful industries time and again: When research findings interfere with your ability to turn a profit, contaminate the field with your own manipulated science. Bill’s 2001 documentary, Trade Secrets, follows the vinyl chloride industry’s attempts to do just that.

In this 2001 Moyers Moment from Trade Secrets, Bill speaks with David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, two public health historians, and Richard Lemen, the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, about the U.S. vinyl chloride industry’s attempts to cover up scientific research with their own skewed science.

Vinyl chloride is a toxic chemical compound that is used to manufacture PVC plastic. The companies who produce it knew for decades that being exposed even to small amounts of vinyl chloride could be extremely damaging to a person’s health, but documents show they conspired to keep that fact from their workers, who were exposed daily. In many cases, employees died of rare forms of cancer after years of working in factories that manufactured the compound.

Watch Bill’s 2013 conversation with David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz on Moyers & Company.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/richard.zdeb Richard Zdeb

    Poly Vinyl Chloride is in everything today since the 70s when PVC pipe for plumbing was introduced to change our old cast Iron waste piping systems into a new drainage system that would outlive the corroded iron pipes. This reduced pollutants from steel foundries that had been making Iron pipes and steel fittings and components necessary for our residential and commercial plumbing needs. Our steel industry was forced out of the US due to good EPA regulations that required filtration and removal of fine particulate exhaust from the factories. Most of the formed steel products come from Germany at a loss of almost a trillion dollars a year to the US economy along with almost 1 million jobs.

    The plastics industry took flight and is still expanding to this day. PCV is in almost everything we touch but not hazardous unless it is heated to the temperature of melting or burning. Consider the keypad of your computer and all devices around you on your desk including your phones. All a derivative compound of PVC plastic. The bumpers, trim, dashboards, steering wheels of cars are all part of this revolution of plastics. Cardboard storage boxes which would mold in damp places would release spores causing bleeding lungs & death. Now we have plastic containers of all shapes and sizes that eliminate that health hazard. We protect our food and almost everything in every store with plastic packaging to prevent airborne and human contact of viruses and bacteria from being spread from hand or sneeze to product. Plastics have taken over a great part of our economic structure to produce good things that reduce the loss of trees in our forests. In 2010 I sent a letter to The President, the CDC & EPA along with a copy to US Waste Management and to Lake County Illinois Waste Management. It contains mechanical means in an industrial complex which advanced methods of recycling these everyday plastics. Lake County now uses this system to collect more plastic from electronic devices for recycling and remanufacturing of new products which only require the addition of less then 25% of new vinyl chloride and reduces atmospheric pollutants in the process. Now if only the auto industry would use these recyclable plastics in manufacturing bumpers and components on automobiles we would reduce use of petroleum compounds (Oil) and health hazards from 100% chemical composition of PVC in the current practices.

    I feel it would be advantageous to the Auto industry to do this in the US. Just to advertise that their cars use recyclable plastics for the bumpers of every car made in the US.

  • http://www.facebook.com/susan.campoccio Susan Campoccio

    there must be a way to live well without poisoning all life…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.soland David Soland

    There is, there are safer substitutes
    that are available but corporations refuse to change because of the upfront
    cost. This is why we need a stronger EPA but it is also us, that can demand
    change, don’t buy the products.