Sunday, February 25, 2018

Teflon Chemical Documentary Film: The Devil We Know

I was part of the audience at the showing of "The Devil We Know" which is a 2018 Sundance Film documentary about the chemical pollution by DuPont (3M and other companies are also implicated) of the water in the Ohio River starting back in the last midcentury.

This chemical, C8, or Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) lasts indefinitely in the environment, as basically nothing breaks it down. With widespread product adoption in products such as teflon for cooking, scotch guard and stain resistant upholstery fabrics and carpets, microwave popcorn bags, gor-tex and high-tech athletic and outerwear clothing, carpet cleaning, and the list goes on and on leading to the horrifying fact that it is now found in the blood of 98 percent of Americans and is spreading globally into every continent on our planet. There are many physical ailments which result including kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol and eclampsia.

The investigation in this film began on a farm. DuPont bought some acres from a farmer in the West Virginia town near its factory, who subsequently lost every one of his grazing cattle because DuPont released its poisonous wastes into his waterways and soils. This farmer was a key link in exposing and questioning the situation that the community was conflicted about since they owed their financial dependence and success to DuPont while paying the price of contamination and their very own health.

I shudder to think how much teflon in cooking I've been exposed to. My mother used her Teflon electric frying pan almost daily as I was growing up. We used Teflon cookware as our sons were growing up, too. In the recent years, we've switched to ceramic coated frying pans. They are inexpensive and, in my opinion, have far superior qualities to the Teflon ones. They really don't require as much oil to cook, if any, the surface cleans so easily and if cared for properly, don't scratch like Teflon does. I've been wondering how DuPont and Teflon special interests were able to keep this product from competing with them for all of these five or six decades. That is a mystery to me. Of course, we also use stainless steel and very old inherited cast iron cookware.

This film exposes how the public can be duped about a harmful chemical's danger, the power of corporate America to squelch information from the public about pollution with dangerous chemicals, and the ongoing unregulated chemicals that are being used throughout the United States and the world. It takes a defying amount of time to expose stories such as this, as we sheeple seem to fall into the usual traps of advertising, being distracted by our cell phones, and being spoon fed our information by the mediocre media available to us. After all, we're too sensible to fall for "conspiracy theories", right?

Also, note that today, the company DuPont has merged with DOW, to form a giant $130 billion dollar company DowDuPont with a new focus more on agriculture and GMO crop production. DuPont created spin off company Chemours which offers the Teflon product and other fluoroproducts beginning in 2015.

As I watched this film I thought about agriculture. I thought about all of new emergent chemicals being used in agriculture which go into our soils and water and air. Small planes spray dangerous chemicals wherever they are hired to do so. Huge monster machines that resemble giant insects traverse our ever larger farms spraying from huge plastic tanks containing chemicals to kill plants and insects enabling monoculture crops alone to grow on those acres. I thought about ethanol plants. I thought about bioplastic plants and the huge industrial complex located on the Missouri River in Blair, Nebraska that is so familiar to me which houses giant industrial facilities owned by Cargill, Novazymes, and other bioproducts research companies from around the world, all hoping to be the next disruptor. I thought of all of the vulnerable small communities across rural America which are desperately suffering financially as well as demographically, which appreciate being a site for a new industrial facility, whatever that might be. I thought of technology's growing appetite for energy to fuel concepts like bit coin, our social media addictions, Google data centers, and now the unfathomable energy requirements to support the concept of self driving vehicles. Still, a vast number of chemicals required by industry continue to be unmonitored and unregulated.

I encourage anyone who can, to watch this film which is directed and produced by Stephanie Soechtig, and co-directed by Jeremy Seifert.