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The following is reprinted with permission of the author. Copyright © 2001 by Richard Grossman.

How Long Shall We Grovel?
A Memo for the Record
by Richard Grossman [1]
4 April 2001
provoked by: the Bill Moyers PBS Special "Trade Secrets" [2]

"We have trusted the chemical industry and our government to test the chemicals' effects on health and safety, and to take dangerous ones off the market."

—, 2 April 2001


*   *   *


Based on what evidence?

*   *   *

The point of the Moyers' program was that chemical corporation officials made investment, technology, sales, and promotion decisions to drench their workers and the world with what they knew were poisons, and they didn't come clean. Commenting on the program, The New York Times Corporation said that nothing good comes without a price.

The remedies suggested in Moyers' program: passing laws that give people the "right to know" what's in all products, and requiring the testing of chemicals before they are mass produced.

So I asked myself: Did Bill Moyers instruct his staff to discover what was known in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s and 1980s -- or earlier -- about chemical corporations and poisoning? To find out what people back then were saying and doing? I took a look at my bookshelves and files.

Here are excerpts from reports, articles and books going back 40, 50 and 60+ years. They reveal that knowledge about the mass production, use and dumping of toxic chemicals, and about persistent manipulations, murders, deceptions and usurpations by chemical corporation and government officials, was no secret.

In 2001, ANYONE who chooses to look will find massive evidence of chemical corporation murder, pillage and lies extending over a century. ANYONE who chooses to look will see persistent corporate denial of people's constitutional and human rights, and government complicity.

This country exalts the platitude "all political authority is inherent in the people." But our great corporations have long been protected by the rule of law . . . empowered by our own constitution and bill of rights.

Our society has bestowed upon Chemical corporation leaders, as upon top officials of all giant corporations, the highest rewards and honors, and great wealth. Great corporations have been exalted by legislators and judges, presidents and governors, police and national guards, by local, state and federal governments.

How long shall we authorize chemical corporate officials to kill? How long shall we beg them to tell the truth? To make the earth's air, water and soil, our foods and our jobs, a little less deadly? To please "give us" the right to know?

How long shall we grovel before our elected public servants?

Other species are counting on us to do more than regulate the destruction of the planet.

What do YOU think we the people should do now?


The literature on this topic is vast.
Here is just a handful of books:

  • Lewis Regenstein, America The Poisoned, Washington DC: Acropolis Books, 1982

  • Karl Grossman, The Poison Conspiracy, Sag Harbor: The Permanent press, 1983

  • Michael Brown, Laying Waste, NY: Pantheon, 1979

  • Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Greenwich, CT: Crest, 1962

  • Barry Commoner, The Closing Circle, NY: Bantam, 1972

  • Samuel Epstein, The Politics of Cancer, SF: Sierra Club Books, 1978

  • Jeanne Mager Stellman, Women's Work, Women's Heath: Myths and Realities, NY: Pantheon, 1977

  • Daniel Berman, Death On the Job: Occupational Health and Safety Struggles in the United States, NY: Monthly Review Press, 1978

  • Ralph Nader, Ronald Brownstein, John Richard, Who's Poisoning America, SF: Sierra Club Books, 1981

  • Robert van den Bosch, The Pesticide Conspiracy, NY: Anchor Books, 1980

  • David Wier and Mark Shapiro, Circle of Poison, SF: Institute for Food and Development Policy, 1981

  • Richard Kazis and Richard L. Grossman, Fear At Work: Job Blackmail, Labor & the Environment, Gabriola Island, BC: 1982, second edition - 1991

  • Eric Mann with the Watchdog Organizing Committee, L.A.'s Lethal Air, Labor/Community Strategy Center, 1991

  • K. William Kapp, The Social Costs of Private Enterprise, NY: Schocken Books, 1950

  • Joan Dye Gussow, Chicken Little, Tomato Sauce and Agriculture, NY: The Bootstrap Press, 1994

  • Robert Bullard, ed., Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice & Communities of Color, SF: Sierra Club Books, 1994

  • James C. Robinson, Toil and Toxics: Workplace Struggles and Political Struggles for Occupational Health, Berkeley: Univ. of Cal. Press, 1991, pp. 109-111

  • Dr. Marion Moses, Designer Poisons, SF: Pesticide Education Center, 1995

  • H. V. Hodson, The Diseconomies of Growth, London: Earth Island Ltd., 1972

  • E. J. Mishan, The Costs of Economic Growth, NY: Penguin Books 1971; first ed: 1967

Some studies cited by Rachel Carson in her 1962 book Silent Spring. Check out the dates.

  • Heuper, W. C., Occupational Tumors and Allied Diseases. Springfield, Ill: Thomas, 1942

  • Todd, Frank E., and S. E. McGregor, "Insecticides and Bees," Yearbook of Agriculture, US Dept of Ag, 1952

  • Biskind, Morton S., "Public Health Aspects of the New Insecticides," American Journal of Digestive Diseases, Vol. 20, 1953

  • Ortega, Paul, et al., "Pathologic Changes in the Liver of Rats after Feeding Low Levels of Various Insecticides," AMA Archives of Pathology, Vol. 64, December 1957

  • "Chemicals in Food Products," Hearings, HR 74, House Select Committee to Investigate Use of Chemicals in Food Products, 1951

  • Clinical Memoranda on Economic Poisons, US Public Health Service Publ. # 476, 1956

  • Davidow, B., and J. L. Radomski, "Isolation of an Epoxide Metabolite from Fat Tissues of Dogs Fed Heptachor," J. Pharmacol. and Exper. Therapeut., Vol. 107, March 1953

  • Kitselman, C. H., et al, "Toxicological Studies of Aldrin (Compound 118) on Large Animals," Am. Journal Vet. Research, Vol. 11, 1950

  • Brooks, F. A., "The Drifting of Poisonous Dusts Applied by Airplanes and Land Rigs," Agric. Engin., Vol 28, 1947

  • Anon., "No More Arsenic," Economist (UK), 10 October 1959

  • Weinbach, Eugene, "Biochemical Basis for the Toxicity of Pentachloraphenol," Proc. Natl Acad Sci, Vol 43, 1957

  • "Chemicals in Foods and Cosmetics," Hearings, 81st Congress, HR 74 and 447, House Select Committee to Investigate Use of Chemicals and Cosmetics, Pt. 3, 1952

  • Willard, C. J, "Indirect Effects of Herbicides," Proc., 7th Annual Meeting North Central Weed Control Conf., 1950

  • Quinby, Griffith E., and A. B. Lemmon, "Parathion Residues as a Cause of Poisoning in Crop Workers," Jour. Am. Med. Assn, vol 166, 1958

  • Keenleyside, M. H. A., "Insecticides and Wildlife," Canadian Audubon, Vol. 21, 1959

  • Graham, R. J., "Effects of Forest Insect Spraying on Trout and Aquatic Insects in Some Montana Streams," Biological Problems in Water Pollution. Transactions, 1959 seminar, US Public Health Service Technical Report W 60-3, 1960

  • Lawrence, J. M., "Toxicity of Some New Insecticides to Several Species of Pondfish,:" Progressive Fish Culturist, Vol. 12, 1950

Some studies cited by K. William Kapp in his 1950 book, The Social Costs of Private Enterprise:

  • National Resources Committee, Report on Water Pollution by the Special Advisory Committee on Water Pollution, July 1935

  • Petroleum Investigation, 1934, Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, House of Representatives, 73rd Congress

  • H. B. Meller, "A Modern Plan for a Community Campaign Against Air Pollution," American Journal of the Medical Sciences # 2, August 1933

  • H. Cristiani and J. Stoklasa, The Loss to Agriculture Caused by Factory Fumes, Intl Institute of Agriculture, Rome, 1927

  • Ad infinitum. Alas.


Let's close with this simple chart from 1950:

Comparison of Estimated Value of Products Manufactured with Estimated Cost of Industrial-Waste Treatment for Major Industries Contributing to the Pollution of Surface Water in the United States [47]
product total value (1935)     est. costs of waste treatment [48]
food & beverages $8,830,896,000   $205,400,000           
textiles 2,516,157,000   54,000,000  
chemicals 1,366,311,000   28,300,000  
petroleum refining 1,823,793,000   30,000,000  
ferrous metals 1,902,909,000   20,000,000  
nonferrous metals 382,526,000   21,000,000  
rubber 469,400,000   1,000,000  
paper 822,719,000   129,000,000  
gas 203,751,000   5,000,000  
  $18,318,461,000   $494,300,000  

The chemical corporation role in nuclear bomb and nuclear power activities over the past 60 years is incalculable. Nothing about this aspect of US history has been included in this memorandum for the record. --RLG



  1. Co-Director, Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy, P.O. Box 246, S. Yarmouth, MA 02664-0246. ph: 508-398-1145; fax: 508-398-1552 email:; formerly, Director of Environmentalists For Full Employment, 1976-1985; co-founder, Stop the Poisoning (STP) Schools at Highlander Center, Tennessee.

  2. As Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney recently pointed out, officials of corporations which have contracted with the Pentagon in Colombia to spray chemicals from the skies, train terrorists, supply weapons of great destruction and heaven knows what else have refused to provide her with information about what precisely their corporations are doing in Colombia. The excuse: corporate trade secrets.

  3. Stuart Chase, The Economy of Abundance, NY: Macmillan Co., 1934, pp. 25-6

  4. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, p. 297

  5. Barry Commoner, Science & Survival, NY: Viking, 1963

  6. Fear At Work, p. 185

  7. James C. Robinson, Toil and Toxics: Workplace Struggles and Political Struggles for Occupational Health, Berkeley Univ. of Cal. Press, 1991, pp. 109-111

  8. Regenstein, p. 21

  9. Richard Kazis & Richard L. Grossman, Fear At Work: Job Blackmail, Labor & The Environment, second edition, Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 1991, p. xi-xii. [first edition: 1982]

  10. Leonard Woodcock, President, United Auto Workers, 1976, in Fear At Work, p. 57

  11. John Sheehan, legislative director of the United Steelworkers of America, 1979, in Fear At Work, p. 21

  12. Richard L. Grossman & Gail Daneker, Energy, Jobs & the Economy, Boston: Alyson Publications, 1979

  13. Richard L. Grossman, "The Saturation of the South," in The Egg, Summer 1988

  14. Regenstein, pp. 25-6

  15. Regenstein, p. 82

  16. "The EPA and the Regulation of Pesticides," staff Report to this senate committee, Washington DC, December, 1976.

  17. James Moorman, Assistant Attorney General for Land and Natural Resources, US Dept of Justice, testifying before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, May 16, 1979, in Regenstein p. 136

  18. Eckhardt Beck, EPA assistant administrator, July 25, 1980, in Regenstein p, 168

  19. Richard Moore and Louis Head, in Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice & Communities of Color, edited by Robert D. Bullard, SF: Sierra Club Books, 1994, pp. 195-200

  20. Regenstein, p. 205; nb: a significant "benefits" literature has existed for decades

  21. Jeanne Mager Stellman, Women's Work, Women's Heath: Myths and Realities, NY: Pantheon, 1977, pp. 85-86

  22. Fear At Work, p. 174

  23. K. William Kapp, The Social Costs of Private Enterprise, NY: Schocken Books, 1950, pp. 229-30

  24. Carson, Silent Spring, p. 158-9

  25. Dan Berman, Death On The Job, pp. 44-46

  26. Senate Subcommittee on Administrative Practice and Procedure, chaired by Edward M. Kennedy, in Regenstein, p. 233

  27. Chemical Regulation Reporter, 15 January, 1982, in Regenstein p. 271

  28. Library of Congress study, August 1980: "Health Effects of Toxic Pollution: A Report from the Surgeon General," and "A Brief Review of Selected Environmental Contamination Incidents with a Potential for Health Effects," reports prepared by the Surgeon General, Dept of HHS, and the Library of Congress, for the Committee on Environment and Public Works, US Senate, in Regenstein p. 245

  29. Eric Mann & the WATCHDOG Organizing Committee, L.A.'s Lethal Air: New Strategies for Policy, Organizing and Action, LA: A Labor/Community Strategy Center Book, 1991, p. 17

  30. LA's Lethal Air, p. 18, 1991

  31. Lois Marie Gibbs, Love Canal: My Story, as told to Murray Levine, Albany: State University of NY Press, 1982, pp. 3, 6, 22, 30, 75-6, 141, 148-9, 174.

  32. Dr. George Harvey, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 1975, in Regenstein p. 296

  33. Russell Train, EPA Administrator, November, 1974, in Regenstein p. 363

  34. Environmental Defense Fund, October 1974, in Regenstein, p. 363

  35. Regenstein, p. 375

  36. Regenstein, p. 375

  37. "Status Report on Pesticides," SF: Friends of the Earth, 1981, in Karl Grossman, p. 35

  38. Institute for Food Technologists, a chemical industry "educational" non-profit corporation, in a pamphlet titled "Quick Answers to Commonly Asked Questions About Food," 1981, in Karl Grossman, p. 85

  39. advertisement from Ritter International Corporation, in Karl Grossman, p. 83

  40. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 1962, pp. 35-6

  41. Joan Dye Gussow, Chicken Little, Tomato Sauce & Agriculture, NY: The Bootstrap Press, 1991, p. 34

  42. "Health Effects of Toxic Pollution: A Report from the Surgeon General," August 1, 1980, in Karl Grossman, p. 102

  43. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 1962, pp. 294-96. And so we must also deal with the reality that the institutional vehicle for moving from science to technology and then to mass production is the modern giant corporation, which our courts and culture have armed with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

  44. Barry Commoner, The Closing Circle, NY: Knopf, 1971, pp. pp. 277-282

  45. Commoner, The Closing Circle, final paragraph p. 300.

  46. President Ronald Reagan, "National Pest Control Month," June, 1982, in Karl Grossman, p. 241

  47. "Compiled for the volume of production indicated by the 1935 Census of Manufacturers and based upon the judgment of engineers who have had wide experience in the treatment of industrial waste. See National Resources Committee, Water Pollution in the United States, pp. 31, 53-54." In Kapp, p. 90.

  48. These figures do not include costs of treating diseases, of people's lost income, or the "value" of coerced and premature deaths. They do not include costs of across-generation genetic damage, harms to non-human species, the removal of land from agricultural production and human habitation. They do not quantify the costs of air and soil detoxification. They do not quantify the costs of detoxifying the nation's educational and self-governing processes, or the detoxification of the law. And no columns on this chart list people's agonies or the long-lived distortions arising from the toxification of the nation's values.

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