Continued Polarization Between Environmental NGOs and Industry Groups

In the United States, serious attempts have been made in recent years to reconcile past differences between industry groups and environmentalist organizations in order to understand each other’s perspective more clearly and help accelerate progress in the testing of chemicals. These efforts, however, appear to be short­lived. A PBS special investigative television program shown in the United States called “Trade Secrets” portrayed an alleged massive cover-up by the American Chemistry Council and its sister organization, the American Vinyl Institute over health problems experienced by employees working with vinyl chloride monomer in the 1950s and 1960s. Subsequent rebuttal statements as to the film’s perspec­tive and bias, made by the American Chemistry Council, only enflamed Environ­mental Defense and the Environmental Working Group, who became occupied in distributing the video of the PBS program to State and Local Governments around the nation, together with a commentary on the lack of trust with which the public should regard the chemical industry.

While this has nothing to do with pigments per se, it has everything to do with explaining why polarization still continues between industry and NGOs.

In the early 1990s I had the opportunity of participating with a group from CPMA in a meeting with one of the chief environmentalist action groups in the United States. While there, I explained that my company, in addition to its pig­ments production facilities in the United States, had similar facilities in Europe. I still remember the comment made by one well-meaning environmentalist who told me in no uncertain manner that our United States manufacturing facilities were unwelcome to his group, and that we could do no better than to produce our HPPs exclusively in Europe and import them into USA! Today, when industry hears of the need for “greater transparency,” and the public’s “right to know,” it sometimes translates this into “a need for greater transparency, so that the NGOs can use the raw data provided for their own benefit, and interpret it in ways that maximize their position before the public”. Obviously, this is an area where much improvement is still critical.


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