Chemical Industry Insider Comes Clean

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Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus

“False in one, false in all” is the legal principle that says a witness who willfully falsifies one matter is not credible on any matter. Recent Center for Public Integrity and the Daily Beast reporting shows the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the chemical industry’s trade group, has willfully falsified in more matters than one.

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ACC hasn’t told the truth about its lobbying activities in state legislatures, its activities related to flame retardant chemicals, or its role in conceiving and directing the “astroturf” organization Citizens For Fire Safety Institute. Finally, an insider has come forward with documents and information to uncover the truth.

For years, ACC’s President and CEO maintained that the council “does not advocate with state legislatures or state regulatory agencies on their behalf related to flame retardant chemistries,” “is not affiliated with Citizens for Fire Safety,” and “neither ACC staff nor resources were used to support activities undertaken by the group.”

In 2012, a Senior Director testified that the ACC had not been involved in the flame retardant issue for over five years.

ACC’s Communications VP told Chemistry World, “ACC did not support Citizens for Fire Safety. End of story.” Well, that’s not the end of the story. It’s not the story at all.

Citizens for Fire Safety (CFFSI) claimed to be “a coalition of fire professionals, educators, community activists, burn centers, doctors, fire departments and industry leaders” but was actually a front group. Its only members were three flame retardant producers – Albemarle, Chemtura, and ICL Industries Ltd. In 2012, the Chicago Tribune’s prize-winning series Playing with Fire unveiled the group’s true identity and outlined its use of tobacco industry tactics to fight regulation of flame retardants.

Now, Grant David Gillham, the former Executive Director of Citizens for Fire Safety, is blowing the whistle on the ACC and its true connection to the group. His revelations are backed by an agenda, letters, and emails.

Gillham says it began in August 2007 when he met with ACC’s VP of State Affairs at their Sacramento, California office.

That meeting marked the beginning of a six year relationship with the American Chemistry Council, and three of its members who manufacture flame retardants: Albemarle, Chemtura, and Israeli Chemical Corporation.

My role, at the direction of the three companies, and under the oversight of the American Chemistry Council, was to develop a national advocacy and grassroots public relations campaign to defeat the growing body of legislation aiming at banning chemical flame retardants.

More specifically, I was directed by Ms. Laura Ruiz from Albemarle that we were not to advocate on behalf of her company, the other two companies, or the American Chemistry Council. Rather we were to set up a separate and distinct non-profit organization whose role was to advocate for the use of chemical flame retardants in furniture, home goods, and building materials.

At all times, our work was coordinated closely with the American Chemistry Council senior staff and legal counsel. Our work was closely monitored, often on a daily basis, by the CEOs and representatives of the three companies. Most importantly, from the beginning of the program, I was told I reported directly to CEOs.

Supporting documents include a tentative agenda item updating ACC on “advocacy for flame retardants in the states,” and an email from an ACC Director that included “a revised flame retardant advocacy principles document…”. The email addressees were @americanchemistry.com, @albemarle.com, @chemtura.com, and @icl-ip.com.

Gillham says “from those initial meetings, until August 22, 2012, our advocacy campaign defeated 58 of 60 separate pieces of legislations to ban chemical flame retardants in 21 states.”

One legislator on the receiving end of these campaigns was California State Assembly member Mark Leno. In Money to Burn, Leno describes presenting “his case for a bill to each member with a committee vote. ‘And almost without exception, as I’m leaving my colleague’s office, there’s a lobbyist for the chemical industry in the waiting room to go in to get the last word.’”

During his six years with ACC and CFFSI, Gillham was assured that the chemicals in question were safe and effective. But more and more studies were published showing flame retardants’ health risks and lack of efficacy.

With each new damning study I counseled the American Chemistry Council and the three companies to make public the scientific data they claimed to have that refuted this highly incriminating new research.

In every case, the flame retardant manufacturers simply recycled old data that had no bearing on the growing body of new, and deeply troubling, research.

The companies didn’t appreciate this advice and summoned Gillham to their offices where, he says, after two days of questioning, his contract was terminated; his “personal records, files, e-mails, calendars, and phone logs” were demanded; they threatened to withhold contractual payments; and his business was nearly bankrupted.

It is Gillham’s view that the companies “fully intended to conduct a dishonest advocacy and lobbying campaign … to propagate claims based on science that academia clearly doubts, about the safety and effectiveness of chemical flame retardants.”

Former Speaker of the Maine House Hannah Pingree says, “the records clearly show the ACC pays lobbyists and engages in state fights over flame retardants over and over again.” A group of 21 current and former state legislators from 10 states has demanded that ACC expel Albermarle, Chemtura, and ICL Industrial Products for unethical behavior and deceptive practices in state legislatures.

Ken Cook of Environmental Working Group put it bluntly, “this is an industry that lies.” False in one, false in all? You be the judge.

 

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