June 11, 2010
After weeks of silence on the issue, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally decided to go public with the list of ingredients used to manufacture Corexit, the chemical dispersant used by BP in the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. There are two things about this announcement that deserve our attention: First, the ingredients that have been disclosed are extremely toxic, and second, why did the EPA protect the oil industry’s “trade secrets” for so long by refusing to disclose these ingredients until now?
As reported in the New York Times, Brian Turnbaugh, a policy analyst at OMB Watch said, “EPA had the authority to act all along; its decision to now disclose the ingredients demonstrates this. Yet it took a public outcry and weeks of complaints for the agency to act and place the public’s interest ahead of corporate interests.”
On the toxicity question, you could hardly find a more dangerous combination of poisons to dump into the Gulf of Mexico than what has been revealed in Corexit. The Corexit 9527 product has been designated a “chronic and acute health hazard” by the EPA. It is made with 2-butoxyethanol, a highly toxic chemical that has long been linked to the health problems of cleanup crews who worked on the Exxon Valdez spill.
A newer Corexit recipe dubbed the “9500 formula” contains dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, a detergent chemical that’s also found in laxatives. What do you suppose happens to the marine ecosystem when fish and sea turtles ingest this chemical through their gills and skin? And just as importantly, what do you think happens to the human beings who are working around this chemical, breathing in its fumes and touching it with their skin?
The answers are currently unknown, which is exactly why it is so inexcusable that Nalco and the oil industry giants would for so long refuse to disclose the chemical ingredients they’re dumping into the Gulf of Mexico in huge quantities (over a million gallons dumped into the ocean to date).
But it gets even more interesting when you look at just how widespread this “chemical secrecy” is across Big Business in the USA… and how the U.S. government more often than not conspires with industry to keep these chemicals a secret.
It’s time to end chemical trade secrets
Armed with the accomplices in the FDA, EPA, FTC and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, powerful corporations have been keeping secrets from us all. It’s not just the toxic chemicals in Corexit, either: Large manufacturers of consumers products — such as Unilever, Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson — routinely use toxic chemical ingredients in their products — ingredients which are usually kept secret from the public.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Similarly, virtually every perfume, cologne and fragrance product on the market is made with cancer-causing chemicals that their manufacturers refuse to disclose, claiming their formulas are “trade secrets.”
Throughout Big Business in America, the toxic chemicals used in everyday products such as household cleaners, cosmetics and yard care remain a dangerous secret, and the U.S. government actually colludes with industry to keep these chemical ingredients a secret by, for example, refusing to require full disclosure of ingredients for personal care products. The FDA offers us virtually no enforcement in this area, depending almost entirely on companies to declare their own chemicals are safe rather than requiring actual safety testing to be conducted.
This is why the following statement is frightening yet true: What BP is doing to the Gulf of Mexico, companies like Proctor & Gamble are doing to the entire population. We are all being mass poisoned by the toxic chemicals in personal care products, foods, medicines, fragrance products and other concoctions created by powerful corporations that use toxic chemicals throughout their product lines… but who refuse to disclose those ingredients in the public.
Thanks to the widespread use of secret chemicals in foods, medicines and personal care products, we are awash in synthetic toxic chemicals that have already reached the shores of public health. The rates of cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and infertility that we’re seeing right now are a reflection of the devastating health cost associated with ongoing the ongoing chemical contamination of our population. Even public water fluoridation policies are a kind of “water contamination disaster” where chemicals from an undisclosed source are dumped into the water supply (on purpose, no less!).
What’s doubly disturbing about all this is that many of the chemicals used in foods, medicines, household cleaners and personal care products end up in the Gulf of Mexico as well because they get flushed down stream. So now the Gulf isn’t just polluted with crude oil and dispersant chemicals; it’s also heavily contaminated with all the chemical runoff from the products made by large corporations that refuse to disclose the actual chemical ingredients, claiming they’re trade secrets.
It’s time to end the chemical secrecy
As this Gulf of Mexico oil disaster clearly demonstrates, it’s time to end the chemical secrecy maintained by Big Business. We must demand that all ingredients be fully disclosed for all products so that the curtain of chemical secrecy is lifted once a for all.
Neither oil companies nor consumer product companies should be able to hide behind the excuse of “trade secrets” to avoid disclosing the actual chemicals contained in the products they sell. As consumers, we must demand chemical transparency from these companies or refuse to buy their products.
Legislatively, we must demand new laws that require full disclosure on all consumer products so that ordinary people can see what’s contained in the products they buy.
In a world where one person’s chemical runoff impacts every other person, there is no justification for chemical secrecy. We all have the right to know what we’re putting on (or in) our bodies, and if companies refuse to be honest with us, we should boycott their products and publicly shame them for engaging in deceptive, secretive behavior.
Because the truth is that consumer product companies don’t dare want you to know what’s actually found in their products. And that’s because most of their products are made with poison. If the average perfume product listed its chemical ingredients on the label, for example, product sales would plummet as consumers realized just how many of those ingredients are linked to cancer and liver disorders.
Big Business wants us all to remain ignorant… blinded to the truth of what poisons they’re slathering on our skin or dripping down our throats. But it’s time to halt this dark era of chemical secrets in our modern world. It’s time to demand transparency, clean up our waterways and stop poisoning ourselves and our planet.
Sources for this story include: