100,000 Pages of Chemical Industry Secrets Gathered Dust in an Oregon Barn for Decades — Until Now
“We didn’t think of ourselves as environmentalists, that wasn’t even a word back then,” Van Strum said. “We just didn’t want to be poisoned.”
Still, Van Strum soon found herself helping with a string of suits filed by people who had been hurt by pesticides and other chemicals. “People would call up and say, ‘Do you have such and such?’ And I’d go clawing through my boxes,” said Van Strum, who often wound up acquiring new documents through these requests — and storing those, too, in her barn.https://cdn01.theintercept.com/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/07/poison-papers-carol-vanstrum-3-1501077878.jpg
Along the way, she amassed disturbing evidence about the dangers of industrial chemicals — and the practices of the companies that make them.
[...] In 1977, her house burned to the ground and her four children died in the fire. Firefighters who came to the scene said the fact that the whole house had burned so quickly pointed to the possibility of arson. But an investigation of the causes of the fire was never completed.
Van Strum suspected some of her opponents might have set the fire. It was a time of intense conflict between local activists and employees of timber companies, chemical manufacturers, and government agencies over the spraying of herbicides.
[...] Still, after all these years, Van Strum felt it was time to pass on her collection of documents, some of which pertain to battles that are still being waged, so “others can take up the fight.”
The “Poison Papers” represent a vast trove of rediscovered chemical industry and regulatory agency documents and correspondence stretching back to the 1920s. Taken as a whole, the papers show that both industry and regulators understood the extraordinary toxicity of many chemical products and worked together to conceal this information from the public and the press. These papers will transform our understanding of the hazards posed by certain chemicals on the market and the fraudulence of some of the regulatory processes relied upon to protect human health and the environment.