Environment in Crisis

Dioxin Controversy

Dioxin Controversy

What are Dioxins?
Dow Chemical

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The Role of Dow Chemical


One of the key players in this story has been Dow Chemical. It is a major manufacturer of chlorine, producing 40 million tons of chlorine each year, much of which is used to make plastics, solvents, pesticides and other chemicals. In 1965 a Dow researcher warned in an internal company document that dioxin "is extremely toxic" but Dow has always publicly claimed it is not (Casten 1992, p. 13). It is of vital importance to Dow that the dangers of dioxin are minimised and tough regulation of the chlorine industry is avoided. Dow uses lobbying firms and trade associations such as the Chemical Manufacturers Association, the National Association of Manufactures and the US Chamber of Commerce, to influence politicians to vote against increased regulation of the chlorine industry.

Each of these is armed with lawyers and lobbyists who daily stroll the corridors of Congress, the EPA and the White House, influencing public policy in ways unimaginable, and inaccessible, to ordinary citizens. Each of these has a public relations budget, and staff to write op eds, testify before Congress or the EPA, appear on news shows as 'experts', speak to civic groups. (Weinberg 1995)

Dow Chemical, alone, spent over a million dollars over the last ten years on donations to politicians running for national office and in the 1992 election Dow, together with other chlorine producers, donated more than $1.4 million to people running for Congress. In 1995, Dow provided the services of one of its lobbyists, free of charge, to the House of Representatives Commerce Committee, which has attacked the EPA and environmental protection laws (Weinberg 1995).

Dow executives are given public speaking training so they can take part in various forums as effective and persuasive speakers. In recognition that scientists have more credibility than other company employees, Dow's "Visible Scientist Program" gives Dow scientists special training to be able to "communicate through talk shows, citizens groups, and newspaper editorial-board briefings about such issues as hazardous-waste management and chemical plant safety" (Nelson-Horchler 1990).

Dow also supports and finances corporate front groups such as the Alliance to Keep Americans Working, the Alliance for Responsible CFC Policy, the American Council on Science & Health and Citizens for a Sound Economy (Megalli & Friedman 1991).

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Casten, Liane Clorfene, 1992, 'Dioxin Charade Poisons the Press', Extra! (January/February), pp. 12-13.

INFACT's Corporate Hall of Shame (information on Dow's lobbying and front groups strategies)

Megalli, Mark and Andy Friedman, 1991, Masks of Deception: Corporate Front Groups in America. (Essential Information).

Nelson-Horchler, Joani, 1990, 'We were wrong'; acts of contrition brighten a company's tarnished image', Industry Week, Vol. 239, No. 8, pp. 20-25.

Weinberg, Jack, 1995, Dow Brand Dioxin: Dow Makes You Poison Great Things, (Greenpeace).

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© 2003 Sharon Beder