I’ve been meaning post this appalling story for the last few days. And it’s one reason why I back efforts to make the corporations that knowingly put toxins in our state’s water systems pay for their abuses.
From The Detroit Free Press:
A 3M environmental specialist, in a scathing resignation letter, accused company officials of being “unethical” and more “concerned with markets, legal defensibility and image over environmental safety” when it came to PFAS, the emerging contaminant causing a potential crisis throughout Michigan and the country.
PFOS, one of 3M’s chief PFAS products, “is the most insidious pollutant since PCB,” Richard Purdy stated in his March 28, 1999, resignation letter, referring to a compound used in 3M’s ScotchGard stain-protection product line, among other uses.
“It is probably more damaging than PCB because it does not degrade, whereas PCB does; it is more toxic to wildlife,” he stated, adding that PFOS’s end point in the environment appeared to be plants and animals, not soil and sediment like PCB.
The bold in the above paragraph is my emphasis. This letter was written 20 years ago when your humble podcaster and blogger was a senior at Central Michigan University!
Here’s something more upsetting, 3M was aware something was amiss as far back as 1975–one year before I was born!
After being confronted with some disturbing findings of “unusual levels of fluorine in human blood,” one 3M official in 1975 was thinking of ways to spin this to show these chemicals could be beneficial!
In a confidential, internal company message between 3M officials, one, G.H. Crawford, suggested to “plead ignorance,” and wondered whether they could spin it as a helpful health benefit.
“On the positive side — if it is confirmed to our satisfaction that everybody is going around with fluorocarbon surfactants in their bloodstreams with no apparent ill effects, are there some medical possibilities that would bear looking into?,” such as whether the slippery substances improved arterial sclerosis or kidney blockage, he asked.
Knowing how 3M and other corporations willfully ignored the scientific evidence, a smart leader would pursue litigiation to show they care about the people they represent.
But we don’t live in those times. Please, don’t forget how Trump’s EPA is weakening drinking water standards. Weakening!
As The New York Times reported last month:
After pressure from the Defense Department, the Environmental Protection Agency significantly weakened a proposed standard for cleaning up groundwater pollution caused by toxic chemicals that contaminate drinking water consumed by millions of Americans and that have been commonly used at military bases.
Standards released by the agency on Thursday eliminated entirely a section that would have addressed how it would respond to what it has described as “immediate threats posed by hazardous waste sites.” Those short-term responses, known as removal actions, can includeexcavating contaminated soil or building a security fence around a toxic area.
Exposure to the class of toxic chemicals, called per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, has been linked in recent years to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and ulcerative colitis, among other diseases. Animal studies also show delays in development.
Does that news shock you? Of course, it doesn’t.
Trump and his GOP care more about corporate profits than it cares about the people they represent.
And the Defense Department, which represents many corporations, isn’t showing it cares about the American people, either. If so, it wouldn’t press the EPA to lower its PFAS standards.
Last winter, Dr. Gillian Zaharias Miller from the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor wrote in The Bridge Magazine:
Reports of high levels of PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) in Michigan’s waterways came as little surprise to those of us at the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor. We’ve long advocated for stronger environmental protections when it comes to the tens of thousands of synthetic chemicals currently used by industry. Until our society commits to regulating harmful substances as chemical classes, rather than one by one, this story of chemical bad guys and disillusioned communities will continue to repeat.
Trump and his GOP would like us to “continue to repeat” this sad cycle.
Thankfully, in Michigan, we have Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel who isn’t sitting back and waiting for that cycle to repeat. She’s looking to work with attorneys to go after 3M and other corporations who played a role in poisoning our water.
The attorney general’s office seeks “to determine the appropriate litigation strategies to protect the State of Michigan, its residents and the public interest,” with the successful bidder assisting the department in conducting investigations, determining claims, drafting complaints, conducting discovery, along with preparing for and conducting any trials that may proceed. They would work as Special Assistant Attorneys General on a contingency fee basis.
“Our state will spend hundreds of millions of dollars addressing these problems — costs that should not be borne by the people who live, work and play here,” Nessel said. “Many of those same people were poisoned here and we will make those responsible pay for their greed.”
This is the result of mindlessly following the conservative “let’s cut burdensome regulations” talking point. Be careful what you wish for.
This kind of story is repeated time and time again, and yet we keep making the mistake of putting conservatives in power who fight to keep some damaging policies in place.
If corporations are indeed people, then it’s time to make them pay.
At least, AG Nessel is trying to do just that.