In 1953, a paper developed for cigarette maker RJ Reynolds detailed attainable cancer-causing brokers in tobacco, however the doc would stay hidden from public view for many years. Within the interim, the business informed the general public: “We don’t settle for the concept there are dangerous brokers in tobacco.”
The chemical business, it appeared, took be aware. Only a few years later, DuPont scientists discovered PFAS enlarged lab rats’ livers and certain precipitated start defects in employees. Nonetheless, the corporate informed its workers the cancer-linked compounds are “about as poisonous as desk salt”.
Just like the tobacco business earlier than it, the chemical business managed to maintain PFAS’s well being dangers hidden from the general public for many years. A brand new peer-reviewed examine dissecting PFAS producers’ public relations methods offers a smoking gun timeline composed of business research and feedback from DuPont and 3M officers displaying they knew the risks, however publicly insisted the chemical substances have been secure.
“The chemical business used the techniques of the tobacco business to delay public consciousness of the toxicity of PFAS and, in flip, delayed rules governing their use,” the College of California at San Francisco authors wrote. “PFAS are actually ubiquitous within the inhabitants and surroundings.”
PFAS are a category of about 15,000 chemical substances typically used to make hundreds of merchandise immune to water, stains and warmth. The compounds are linked at low ranges of publicity to most cancers, thyroid illness, kidney dysfunction, start defects, autoimmune illness and different critical well being issues. They’re known as “eternally chemical substances” due to their longevity within the surroundings.
The general public largely wouldn’t be taught of the well being menace till the aughts when subpoenaed information in a lawsuit towards DuPont revealed the chemical substances’ toxicity and business cowl up.
The examine used scientific methodology beforehand developed by tobacco business researcher Stan Glantz to research comparable paperwork from cigarette makers. The authors discovered PFAS producers and their allies most often employed two tobacco methods: withholding inside research that exposed well being dangers and distorting public discourse.
“All these corporations … attempt to forestall the event of public understanding and so they’re at all times years forward of the general public and mainstream scientific group,” Glantz stated.
Between 1961 and 2006, the authors recognized dozens of cases the place DuPont or 3M scientists found or acknowledged PFAS toxicity internally, however didn’t publish the findings or report them to the EPA, as required underneath federal legislation.
DuPont’s chief toxicologist in 1961 discovered rats’ livers enlarged at very low doses of publicity, a well being impression acknowledged as “probably the most delicate signal of toxicity.” The report advisable PFAS be dealt with “with excessive care” and that “contact with the pores and skin must be strictly averted.”
Across the identical time, a DuPont employee died from PFAS inhalation, which the corporate on a number of events dismissed as a rumor. In the meantime, employees reported an “epidemic” of flu-like signs from Teflon publicity.
In 1970, a DuPont-funded lab discovered PFAS to be “extremely poisonous when inhaled and reasonably poisonous when ingested”. A couple of decade later, the lab killed two canines with low doses of the chemical substances. The lab additionally noticed corneal ulcerations in newborns, and 3M, in a report shared with DuPont, “noticed fetus eye adjustments have been as a result of [PFAS]”.
Within the early Nineteen Eighties, DuPont discovered elevated liver enzymes in 60% of employees examined, and a confidential inside report detailed start defects amongst pregnant plant workers. Within the years that adopted, 3M and DuPont inside research discovered the chemical substances doubtless precipitated prostate, testicular, bladder and kidney cancers.
Just about none of this data was shared with the general public, regulators, or DuPont workers, and not one of the analysis was revealed in a scientific journal. The motivation, stated examine co-author Tracey Woodruff, was earnings.
“It is a chemical that made them some huge cash, and these research that confirmed the chemical substances are dangerous could be threatening their earnings if [the studies] got here out,” she added.
As an alternative, in a 1980 memo circulated to workers, DuPont insisted “there is no such thing as a recognized proof that our workers have been uncovered to [PFAS] ranges that pose opposed well being results.”
“We all know of no proof of start defects brought on by [PFAS] at DuPont,” the doc continued, including that the chemical substances are “about as poisonous as desk salt”.
When water pollution near its Parkersburg, West Virginia, plant seemed to be sickening residents, DuPont responded in a press release that DuPont and 3M have found “no known toxic or ill health effects in humans at concentration levels detected”.
As media and public scrutiny of the chemicals’ dangers increased in the 2000s, DuPont vice-president Susan Stalnecker wrote an email to the EPA in 2006 with the subject line “Urgent: EPA Action Needed”.
“We need the EPA to quickly (like first thing tomorrow) say the following: 1. That ‘Consumer products sold under the Teflon brand are safe’ and 2. ‘Further, to date, there are no human health effects known to be caused by PFOA,’” the email read.
That same year, 3M funded a study that found no liver effects in men exposed to PFAS.
PFAS manufacturers have continued to conceal evidence since the conclusion of the DuPont lawsuit. The Guardian in 2021 revealed how DuPont and Japanese chemical maker Daikin hid evidence of the toxicity of 6:2 FTOH, a “new generation” of an allegedly safe PFAS compound that was approved for use in food packaging in 2009. But the companies’ testing before and after approval showed the chemicals caused kidney failure, liver damage, mammary gland problems, mottled teeth and other issues in lab rats.
It’s unclear how the industry hides today, but “their history makes me think that there’s always something that they aren’t disclosing”, said Maricel Maffini, an independent consultant who blew the whistle on 6:2 FTOH.
She said the problem is due in part to the nation’s weak regulatory system, which in the case of the Food and Drug Administration does not require chemical companies to alert the agency if it finds a chemical is more dangerous than was known at the time it was approved.
Governments have begun taking only the most basic steps to protect the public from PFAS, and the federal government has yet to set any enforceable rules. The most meaningful legislation has come at the state level over the last two years, where a crop of laws now prohibit PFAS in consumer goods such as clothing, food packaging, firefighting foam and cosmetics.
The delay was a direct result of the PFAS industry’s campaign, Woodruff said. Had the internal documents been released sooner, the EPA may have acted differently and independent scientists would have been studying the chemicals. That would have generated the kind of public pressure that is only now forcing governments to respond.
“This all would have occurred a lot earlier,” Woodruff added.