June 5, 2012

21 State Lawmakers Call On Chemistry Council To End Deceptive Attacks

21 State Lawmakers Call On Chemistry Council To End Deceptive AttacksLast month, the Chicago Tribune published a series of articles detailing how the makers of flame retardant products distorted science to hide the health dangers of their products and spent big to win over politicians to their cause. As just one example, these chemical companies manufactured fake grassroots groups to send out mailers attacking politicians — even claiming these pols wanted citizens’ homes to burn down — who would dare to question their products.

Now, 21 state lawmakers have sent a letter to the head of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the chief lobbying group that represents the makers of these dangerous flame retardant products. The letter demands that ACC end its egregious misleading of the public and lawmakers and that it expel certain manufacturers who were responsible for the worst deception:

After reading the recent four-­-part Chicago Tribune investigative series, “Playing With Fire,” in which the deeply unethical and longstanding practices of three different chemical companies (Albemarle, Chemtura, and ICL Industries) were revealed, we are writing to urge you to expel these unethical manufacturers from your industry trade group. The deception practiced by these companies—and revealed by the Chicago Tribune—is completely unacceptable in our state legislatures. Some of the most egregious practices, like lying about the death of an infant girl, are abhorrent by any measure.

We understand that the ACC has specific tenets as an organization, including “to lead in ethical ways that increasingly benefit society, the economy and the environment.” In addition, your principles specifically include “communicating forthrightly with governments and communities about chemical risks.”

In each of our states, we have had specific and disturbing dealings with the flame retardant chemical industry that violate basic ethical behaviors and certainly would not be considered honest or “forthright communication with government.”

The worst industry tactics outlined in the Chicago Tribune series—which we each saw some of firsthand in our states—included: deliberately misrepresenting the science around flame retardant chemicals relating to both their effectiveness and their health risks; employing an expert witness who repeatedly invoked a phony story of a child dying in a fire in order to justify flame retardant mandates; creating a front group called “Citizens for Fire Safety” to counter the opposition to flame retardants among firefighters and health organizations; and using racial profiling to mislead community leaders about the impacts of toxic flame retardant chemicals.

“In Maine, we came to expect an army of well-paid lobbyists and dirty tactics from the chemical industry.  The good news is that the people of Maine and our legislators saw through their spending and half-truths.  Our bill to phase out certain toxic flame retardants passed by a near unanimous margin – with Republicans and Democrats supporting the bill,” said Former Speaker of the Maine House Hannah Pingree about the campaign by lawmakers to end ACC’s deceptive campaigns.