top of page

Corporations-- Still Bribing Politicians To Let Them Poison Americans For Profit

In his report for Bloomberg News yesterday, Jeff Feeley, didn’t mention which members of Congress have been bought by the chemical industry. Of all the members of the House still serving John Moolenaar (R-MI) took the most money from the industry— $95,575. There are 4 other corrupted conservative members who took the big chemical industry bribes last cycle:

  • Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)- $71,500

  • Dan Crenshaw (R-TX)- $71,225

  • Lizzie Fletcher (New Dem-TX)- $71,200

  • Haley Stevens (New Dem-MI)- $66,003

OK, so first the semi-good news on the Chemical front. DuPont, Chemours and Corteva (a DuPont spinoff) agreed to pay $1.185 billion to resolve hundreds of pollution claims by cities, towns and local water agencies over “forever chemicals” that fouled waters across the U.S. The companies will set up a fund to settle lawsuits claiming that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, made by DuPont tainted drinking water and subjected consumers to higher rates of cancer. The trial was due to begin in South Carolina next week. Since that statement was issued 3M, the largest PFAS maker, struck a separate, tentative settlement of at least $10 billion over water pollution claims in the same multidistrict litigation,

Feeley reported that “that accord would be the largest PFAS pact in the US and one of the biggest mass tort deals ever.

“This is an impressive step toward righting a corporate wrong that threatened the health of all Americans,” said Scott Summy, one of the lawyers leading the consolidated PFAS litigation in federal court. “DuPont has decided to put money into water systems’ hands today rather than delaying payment for years of trial.”
Holly Froum, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst who has been following the PFAS litigation, said in a note Friday that it remains to be seen how many water authorities will sign off on the deal.
The settlement would include any future water system required by the US Environmental Protection Agency to test for fluorinated chemicals. That would mean approximately 9,500 drinking water utilities, DuPont spokesman Dan Turner said. At the same time, the pact would apply to just a small portion of potential nationwide liability over PFAS in fire retardants, Turner said.
“Each defendant, including potentially the US government, will need to address their portions,” he said.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer Paul J. Napoli, of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, estimates that tens of thousands of water utilities would receive some aid from the settlement within a year if it is approved.
The companies’ offer to pay more than $1 billion is effectively an acknowledgment that they share responsibility in the contamination of the country’s drinking water, Napoli said.
“It’s a big victory against DuPont, but a small piece of the larger battle,” he said.
Nothing in the companies’ statement or in what they have said earlier suggests they concede wrongdoing.
DuPont and Chemours have been here before. In 2017 they agreed to pay $670 million to settle a federal class action suit in Columbus, Ohio, brought on behalf of more than 3,500 residents who blamed their illnesses on PFAS they alleged polluted their drinking water.
3M’s much larger settlement comes as the company was set to face its first federal trial, in Charleston, starting June 5. Analysts have said the St. Paul, Minnesota-based manufacturer could face about $143 billion in total PFAS liability. The smaller DuPont pact reflects DuPont’s share of the PFAS market, which is dwarfed by 3M’s production of the compounds over the decades.
3M and other makers of PFAS including DuPont last month agreed to pay more than $100 million to resolve a Georgia city’s lawsuit claiming the chemicals polluted its drinking water.
Researchers have found that PFAS, an industrial product used since the 1950s in products ranging from computer chips and nonstick frying pans to cosmetics, never breaks down naturally and has to be removed from waterways to landfills or destroyed by burning or with emerging technologies. They say PFAS runoff across the country means more than 200 million Americans may have the allegedly toxic substance in their drinking water. The compounds have been linked to increased cancer risks and other ailments.
3M disputes those findings and maintains that PFAS pose no significant threat to public health.
The three companies in the DuPont accord, which agreed in 2021 to set up a $4 billion fund to handle the burgeoning wave of PFAS suits, noted in their statement that the accord doesn’t cover claims by state attorneys general about pollution of rivers and streams or any claims by the federal government. Also excluded are smaller water providers that haven’t found “the presence of PFAS and are not currently required to monitor for it under federal or state requirement,” according to the statement.

Like I said, that was the semi-good news. For the really fucked-up news, lets look at a report filed by Carey Gillam in The Guardian: Revealed: The secret push to bury a weedkiller’s link to Parkinson’s disease. Doesn’t this tactic sound familiar? “The global chemical giant Syngenta has sought to secretly influence scientific research regarding links between its top-selling weedkiller and Parkinson’s, internal corporate documents show. While numerous independent researchers have determined that the weedkiller, paraquat, can cause neurological changes that are hallmarks of Parkinson’s, Syngenta has always maintained that the evidence linking paraquat to Parkinson’s disease is ‘fragmentary’ and ‘inconclusive.’ But the scientific record they point to as proof of paraquat’s safety is the same one that Syngenta officials, scientists and lawyers in the US and the UK have worked over decades to create and at times, covertly manipulate. The files reveal an array of tactics, including enlisting a prominent UK scientist and other outside researchers who authored scientific literature that did not disclose any involvement with Syngenta; misleading regulators about the existence of unfavorable research conducted by its own scientists; and engaging lawyers to review and suggest edits for scientific reports in ways that downplayed worrisome findings.”

The reason I asked if this sounded familiar to you is because the chemical industry is only one corporate briber that pays off congressmembers to have their backs while their products kill Americans. For example, do you recall that research linking smoking to health risks, including lung cancer, started emerging— and being meticulously and systemically covered up by the industry— in the 1950s. The tobacco companies hired scientists and funded research that aimed to cast doubt on these findings or suggest alternative causes. This created controversy and confusion surrounding the health risks of smoking for many years. It wasn't until the late 1990s that internal tobacco industry documents became publicly available, revealing deliberate efforts to mislead the public.

Another instance involved the controversy surrounding leaded gasoline. Manufacturers and industry associations were aware of the toxic effects of lead on human health, but they actively promoted the continued use of leaded gasoline while downplaying its risks, spanning several decades. This led to significant public health consequences, particularly for individuals exposed to high levels of lead emissions. Lead was added to gasoline as an anti-knock agent starting in the 1920s. However, concerns about the health effects of lead exposure began to grow in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

The there was asbestos and the suppression of information about the health risks of asbestos over several decades, starting in the early and mid 1900s. Companies involved in asbestos mining, manufacturing, and construction actively concealed evidence of asbestos-related health problems, like mesothelioma and other deadly lung diseases. Efforts to regulate and ban asbestos gained momentum in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Instances of pharmaceutical companies downplaying the risks of their products have occurred at different times and continue as these companies buy off Congress and capture regulators. The case of Vioxx, for example, unfolded in the late 1990s and early 2000s when concerns about the drug's cardiovascular risks emerged.

The manipulation of scientific information by the sugar industry, particularly in relation to heart disease, took place in the ‘60s and is certainly ongoing. During this time, the industry funded research that sought to shift the blame for heart disease away from sugar and onto dietary fat. These efforts influenced public health policy and scientific discourse for several decades, all the while the industry paying off corrupt politicians like Debbie Wasserman Schultz (New Dem-FL).

And this isn’t the first time the chemical industry has been caught harming people. For decades, the manipulation of scientific information by the chemical industry has been rampant. The case of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) contamination, for example, emerged in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, revealing the industry's efforts to downplay the risks associated with this chemical resulting in the companies being found to be deliberately hiding evidence of severe health hazards.

Just as the chemical industry is doing in relation to paraquat today, these earlier cases highlighted how corporate interest groups manipulated scientific information to advance their economic interests.

Gillam further reported that “The files also show that Syngenta created what officials called a ‘Swat team’ to be ready to respond to new independent scientific reports that could interfere with Syngenta’s ‘freedom to sell’ paraquat. The group, also referred to as ‘Paraquat Communications Management Team,’ was to convene ‘immediately on notification’ of the publication of a new study, ‘triage the situation’ and plan a response, including commissioning a ‘scientific critique.’ A key goal was to ‘create an international scientific consensus against the hypothesis that paraquat is a risk factor for Parkinson’s disease,’ the documents state… Syngenta further said there had been more than 1,200 studies of paraquat and none have ‘established a causal connection between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease.’”

Many scientists disagree with that position, however. Paraquat has been shown in some research to increase the risk of Parkinson’s by 150% and is cited in a 2020 book, Ending Parkinson’s Disease, by four of the world’s leading neurologists as a causal factor for the disease.
The documents revealing Syngenta’s efforts to influence science build on other evidence of questionable corporate practices with regard to paraquat. A set of internal documents revealed last year by the Guardian and the New Lede made clear, among other things, that Syngenta had evidence 50 years ago that paraquat could accumulate in the human brain.
Those documents showed that Syngenta was aware decades ago of evidence that exposure to paraquat could impair the central nervous system, triggering tremors and other symptoms in experimental animals similar to those suffered by people with Parkinson’s.
They also showed that Syngenta worked covertly to keep a highly regarded scientist studying causes of Parkinson’s from sitting on an advisory panel for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the chief US regulator for paraquat and other pesticides.
The new documents have emerged at a sensitive time for Syngenta. In less than six months, the Swiss chemical giant faces a first-ever trial in litigation brought by US farmers and others who allege the company’s paraquat weedkiller causes Parkinson’s.
It was 2003, and Syngenta officials should have been celebrating: the company’s self-proclaimed “blockbuster” paraquat herbicide product, sold under the brand name Gramoxone, was considered one of the world’s top weedkillers, used by farmers across the globe. Sales of $420m were forecast for steady growth.
But at the same time, multiple independent researchers were increasingly reporting evidence that the herbicide might be a cause of rising levels of Parkinson’s, a disease particularly seen in farmers. Roughly 90,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with Parkinson’s. Symptoms include tremors, rigidity of the muscles, a loss of coordination, and difficulty speaking.
In the face of the developing research, the new documents show, Syngenta decided that it needed a “coherent strategy across all disciplines focusing on external influencing, that proactively diffuses the potential threats that we face”, according to the minutes of a June 2003 company meeting.
To achieve that goal, the company set several objectives, including attempting to “influence future work by external researchers where possible.”
A key strategy was the engagement of scientists outside the company who could write papers that supported Syngenta’s defense of paraquat.
Similar strategies have been pursued by other chemical companies and in other industries when safety questions arose about profitable products. Monsanto, for example, was found to have ghostwritten scientific studies about a widely used chemical called glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.
The newly uncovered records show that among the scientists with which Syngenta had a consulting arrangement was the prominent British pathologist Sir Colin Berry, who in 2003 became president of the British Academy of Forensic Sciences.
According to testimony given in a deposition by the top Syngenta scientist Philip Botham, and other records, Berry became a participant in Syngenta’s “extended health science team”, attending company meetings on paraquat. The company had several similar relationships with outside scientists who authored papers to submit to scientific journals, the records show.
Berry co-authored a paper published in 2010 titled “Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease” in Cell Death & Differentiation, a journal owned by the Nature Portfolio, It concluded that the link between paraquat and Parkinson’s was weak and evidence linking the chemical to the disease was “limited” and based on “insufficient” data. Along with Berry, two other external scientists were listed as authors.
The paper’s ethics declaration did not disclose that any of the three had a relationship with Syngenta specifically. It only stated that “the researchers have worked with pharmaceutical and chemical companies as external advisors. This work reflects their scientific experience and independent views.”
…Though it worked to publicize research that supported paraquat safety, Syngenta kept quiet about a series of in-house animal experiments that analysed paraquat impacts in the brains of mice, according to company records and deposition testimony.
…The involvement of lawyers with the scientists at Syngenta appears similar to highly criticized practices by the tobacco industry in the 1970s and ’80s that downplayed the dangers of smoking, said Thomas McGarity, former EPA legal adviser and co-author of the 2008 book titled Bending Science: How Special Interests Corrupt Public Health Research.
“It looks like the paraquat maker has adopted nearly every strategy we outlined in our book about bending science,” McGarity said.
“Science matters. We have to be able to depend on science,” he said. “When it is perverted, when it is manipulated, then we get bad results. And one result is that pesticides that cause terrible things like Parkinson’s remain on the market.”
When he worked at the EPA, pesticide lobbyists were so persistent in trying to influence officials, that agency staffers referred to them as “hall crawlers”, McGarity said.
The agency has a history of close relationships with industry, and critics say there is a “revolving door” of employees who move between the two, resulting in lax regulation.
Indeed, the trove of Syngenta documents reveal that its law firm hired a retired top EPA official as an expert witness to help defend the company in the litigation. Jack Housenger, director until February 2017 of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, which is the main regulator of paraquat and other pesticides, agreed to do so for $300 an hour.

bottom of page