Daylong UCSF Chemical Industry Documents Library Event Includes: “Failing for Forty Years: What the Poison Papers Tell Us About the #EPA and How to Reform It” – The Poison Papers
New ’#Poison_Papers' Leak: EPA Knew About Many Dangerous Toxins, But Kept Quiet
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Now, I also understand that the Sanjour documents reveal that EPA officials lied to poor and rural communities about the dangers of hazardous waste. Could you talk to us about those revelations?
JONATHAN LATHAM: Well, you know, the EPA concluded that they had an obligation to find sites for the disposal of hazardous wastes. And it doesn’t appear that- you know, what it seems to me is that they made that requirement up. They did not actually need to find those sites, but they acted as if they did. And so they ended up acting as agents for the waste industry, trying to convince rural communities to accept incinerators and landfills. And so, so instead of working to protect the public interest and the environment from leakages from landfills, for example- which they knew were inevitable- they basically ignored those concerns. And so people ended up, you know- and as part of the Superfund project, basically taking taking material from one Superfund site to another Superfund site, which would then leak in turn. So basically, you know, they were taking material from one place where they knew it would leak out to another place where they would leak out.
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.