In a shocking resignation letter dated March 28, 1999, a 3M environmental specialist accused the company of being more concerned with profits and image than environmental safety.
According to Richard Purdy who penned the scathing letter, PFOS “is the most insidious pollutant since PCB” and is the cause for a potential health crisis across the entire country, but most notably in the state of Michigan. PFOS is used in 3M’s ScotchGard stain-protection product line and isn’t the only PFAS chemical the company uses.
“It is probably more damaging than PCB because it does not degrade, whereas PCB does; it is more toxic to wildlife,” the letter reads.
“I have worked within the system to learn more about this chemical and to make the company aware of the dangers associated with its continued use,” Purdy wrote. “But I have continually met roadblocks, delays, and indecision. For weeks on end, I have received assurances that my samples would be analyzed soon — never to see results. There are always excuses and little is accomplished.”
A new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Northeastern University has found that people in 43 states in the United States are exposed to drinking water contaminated with PFAS chemicals, of which PFOS is one.
Michigan has been hit hardest, with at least 46 sites where groundwater has PFAS levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) lifetime health advisory guideline. According to Detroit Free Press, “The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has estimated PFAS could be found at more than 11,300 sites in Michigan” including 17 bodies of water with “‘do not eat’ fish advisories, or limitations on consumption of fish, because of PFOS contamination.”
The revealing resignation letter was recently obtained by the Detroit Free Press along with numerous internal 3M documents. The documents were obtained by then-Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson during a 2010 lawsuit alleging environmental contamination by 3M in the state of Minnesota. The lawsuit was settled for $850 million in 2018.
While PFAS chemicals have proved useful in numerous applications including cleaning products, waterproof clothing, nonstick cookware, textiles, grease-resistant food packaging, leather, paper goods, paint and more, the very same properties that make it so successful in these applications is what makes it so harmful to environment. PFAS compounds are nearly indestructible, with some referring to them as “the forever chemicals.”
But the same qualities that made PFAS compounds so useful also makes them almost indestructible in the environment, giving them the ominous nickname “the forever chemicals.”
Documents show that 3M was, in fact, aware of PFAS toxicity in lab rats all the way back in 1950. In the mid-1970s, health concerns arose after studies of fish, rats, and monkeys. The problems were so prevalent, that the company became aware of rising levels of PFAS compounds in their employees’ blood along with a link to testicular cancer. PFAS compounds were “found to be completely resistant to biodegradation” way back in 1978.
PFAS, which have been linked to a host of medical conditions such as cancer, thyroid problems, hormone imbalances, pre-eclampsia, learning disabilities and more, are found in the blood of almost 99% of Americans.
Documents obtained during the 2010 lawsuit revealed, not only this shocking resignation letter, but documents outlining 3M’s research into PFAS compounds. It turns out, 3M has been well aware for years that the compounds do not break down in the environment as expected, that they were found in both the blood of employees and the public, and laboratory rats and other animals were experiencing negative health effects.
Despite the revelations, 3M continued to sell PFAS compounds used in a range of products including things that touch both human skin as well as food. The company also neglected to inform the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
However, in the 1990s, the EPA became increasingly aware of researching showing the presence of PFAS compounds in the environment and reached an agreement with 3M in 2000 to phase out the use of PFOS by 2003. While 3M stopped using PFOA in 2000, other companies—including DuPont, the company responsible for Teflon—continued their use until an agreement with the EPA to phase them out by 2015.
According to Purdy’s 1999 letter, the environmental specialist argued years before any action was taken that 3M had already “waited too long to tell customers about the widespread dispersal of PFOS in people and the environment.”
“3M continues to make and sell these chemicals, though the company knows of an ecological risk assessment I did that indicates there is a better than 100% probability that perfluorooctansulfonate (PFOS) is biomagnifying in the food chain and harming sea mammals. This chemical is more stable than many rocks.”
“3M told those of us working on the fluorochemical project not to write down our thoughts or have email discussions on issues because of how our speculations could be viewed in a legal discovery process. This has stymied intellectual development on the issue, and stifled discussion on the serious ethical implications of decisions.”
Now, almost 10 years after the 2010 lawsuit in Minnesota, a new one in Michigan is using the very same internal documents.
Both current and former residents of the small midwest town of Parchment, Michigan are suing 3M and Georgia-Pacific over a toxic mess left in a landfill. PFAS compounds have leached from the landfill into the town’s water supply thanks to a paper mill responsible for manufacturing food safe paper coated with 3M’s product. As a result, thousands of current and former residents of the town were unknowingly exposed to high levels of the compound via municipal drinking water.
Nicholas Coulson, the Detroit environmental class-action attorney who is bringing the lawsuit against 3M said of the allegations against the company, “What we’re alleging that 3M did is really a crime against humanity.”
“It’s an absolute outrage that, in the name of profit, for decades they suppressed this information, and they continued to pump these chemicals out in incredible quantities into the natural environment. And the terrible result of that is that some communities, like Parchment, have had to bear the brunt of it.”
“3M had really, really sufficient notice to know that, one, these things don’t go away, they build up and build up and build up, both in the environment and the body, and two, that they cause really harmful effects,” Coulson added.
In his 1999 resignation letter, Richard Purdy concluded:
“I have worked to the best of my ability within the system to see that the right actions are taken on behalf of the environment. At almost every step, I have been assured that action will be taken—yet I see slow or no results. I am told the company is concerned, but their actions speak to different concerns than mine. I can no longer participate in the process that 3M has established for the management of PFOS and precursors. For me it is unethical to be concerned with markets, legal defensibility and image over environmental safety.”
Purdy wasn’t the only one to sound the alarm. The documents reveal that, dating back to the 1970s, numerous employees—including an employee named M.T. Case who author memos revealing toxicity, another who went by Dr. King, and Eric Reiner who worked in the company’s Environmental Engineering and Pollution Control division—urged the company to act on the research.
In a response to the Detroit Free Press, 3M seemingly bragged of their dedication to “research, technology, and clean-up” while calling the story gleaned from the internal documents “incomplete and misleading“:
“3M has dedicated substantial time and resources to researching PFAS and, to that end, we have invested more than $600 million on research, technology, and clean-up efforts related to PFAS. As a responsible steward of our community, we have a record of sharing information we learn with government regulators, the scientific community, as well as local and federal officials.
The small set of documents from the Minnesota litigation portrays an incomplete and misleading story that distorts the full record regarding 3M’s actions with respect to PFOA and PFOS, as well as who we are as a company. 3M acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS and we will vigorously defend our environmental stewardship.”
With 19 million people in 43 U.S. states currently exposed to drinking water contaminated with PFAS chemicals, the task of cleaning up these “forever chemicals” that are reportedly more stable than some rocks, is daunting. Companies like 3M that repeatedly prioritize profits and production of their products over people must be held accountable for the havoc wreaked on the environment, their customers, and their employees. While 3M did lose its $300 million/year revenue-maker ScotchGard after the 2000 agreement with the EPA, the loss only represented a mere 2% of 3M’s total sales. And while 3M bragged in their response to the Detroit Free Press of the $600 million spent on “research, technology, and clean-up efforts related to PFAS,” those amounts pale in comparison to the company’s profits, including the $7.9 billion earned in sales in the forth quarter of 2018 alone.
Time and time again, massive corporations that have caused harm—either knowingly or not—are tasked with clean-up costs or fines that barely make a dent in their bottomline. Without significant consequences for their actions, corporations like 3M will likely continue to prioritize profits over the health of the environment and even their customers. Perhaps the newest lawsuit against 3M will finally hold the company accountable to a degree that will impact the future.
Prison Guard Who Had Sex With Inmate In Front Of 11 Prisoners Is Now Behind Bars
A prison guard in California now finds herself behind bars after she was caught having sexual relations with an inmate – in one case, performing the act in full view of 11 other prisoners.
Former Fresno County correctional officer Tina Gonzalez, 26, was arrested last May following an investigation by the vice unit of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office’s and its internal affairs division.
Gonzalez, who worked as a prison guard from 2016 to 2019, was investigated after authorities were tipped off that an inmate was having sex with a prison guard who had also smuggled in a phone, reports the Fresno Bee.
In one case, Gonzalez even cut a hole in the pants of her uniform to allow easier access during sexual acts with the unnamed prisoner at Fresno County Jail.
Gonzalez was also accused of having sex in full view of 11 inmates, an act that her former boss says “is something only a depraved mind can come up with.”
Assistant Sheriff Steve McComas, who once supervised the unit Gonzalez belonged to, said that in his entire career of 26 years he has witnessed some “pretty disgusting things” but none as bad as Gonzalez’s conduct.
“She took an oath which she betrayed and in doing so endangered her co-workers’ lives,” McComas said.
“But she has shown no remorse,” he added. “She continually calls and has sexually explicit conversations with the inmate in question and boasts about the crimes she carried out.”
Gonzalez pleaded no contest in April to one count of sexual activity by a detention facility employee with a consenting confined adult, one count of possession of drugs or an alcoholic beverage in a jail facility and a misdemeanor count of possession of cellular device with intent to deliver to an inmate.
When she was being sentenced, Judge Michael Idiart decried her acts as “terrible, stupid” and noted that her career had been “ruined.”
“But I also believe that people can redeem themselves and you have the rest of your life to do that,” the judge added. “Good luck.”
Gonzalez is now serving her sentence of seven months in county jail to be followed by two years of probation.
Judge Orders New Trove of Secret Ghislaine Maxwell Files to Be Unsealed This Month
A large trove of secretive files about Ghislaine Maxwell will be unsealed this month, including those shedding light on her relationship with disgraced late financier Jeffrey Epstein, a judge ruled on Thursday.
The documents will include details on her finances, as well as “funding received from the Clinton Global Initiative and the Clinton Foundation,” according to court records.
The documents are also believed to detail Maxwell’s extensive connections with powerful men such as Prince Andrew of the British royal family, reports the Daily Mail.
It has long been well-known that Epstein and Maxwell associated with both Clinton and former President Donald Trump. Clinton also reportedly met with accused Maxwell for an “intimate” dinner in 2014.
The documents are a part were filed by Epstein accuser and former “sex slave” Virginia Roberts Giuffre in a 2015 civil lawsuit against Maxwell and must be released in mid-July, Judge Loretta Preska ruled in Thursday’s telephone hearing.
Giuffre sued Maxwell for defamation after she was accused by the British socialite of fabricating the sexual abuse allegations against her and Epstein in the lawsuit, which has since been settled.
Last July, a deposition by Giuffre was unsealed. In the deposition, Giuffre went into detail about alleged “constant” orgies that Maxwell and the late pedophile engaged in on Epstein’s private Caribbean island.
“There’s just a blur of so many girls,” Giuffre explained in the 2015 deposition.
“There were blondes, there were brunettes, there were redheads,” she continued. “They were all beautiful girls. I would say the ages ranged between 15 and 21.”
“The island was a place where orgies were a constant thing that took place. And again, it’s impossible to know how many,” Giuffre said, noting that she was “100 percent certain” that Maxwell took part in sexual acts with the girls.
Maxwell is accused of grooming multiple minors to engage in sex acts with Epstein, her ex-boyfriend, by befriending them to ask them about their lives and families while building friendships with the young girls alongside Epstein by taking their victims on social outings or out shopping in the 1990s and 2000s.
Maxwell has been detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, pending trial.
Her five appeals to be released from jail have all been rejected.
Epstein, 66, was found dead in a lone cell in the special housing unit (SHU) of a federal Manhattan prison in New York City while facing a potential prison sentence of up to 45 years on charges of pedophilia and sex trafficking.
2 More Catholic Churches in Canada Burned as Third Mass Gravesite for Indigenous Kids Found
An additional two Catholic churches have been the target of likely arson in Canada as anger continues to grow in the aftermath of the discovery of over 1,000 human remains belonging to Indigenous children.
The news coincides with the discovery of a third site where 182 unmarked graves were located near a discovered near a residential school in British Columbia’s interior.
Early Wednesday morning, firefighters were dispatched to respond to a fire at St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Morinville, Alberta, which was basically gutted by the blaze.
“The fire was already fully involved from the basement when the first fire crews got here,” Morinville’s infrastructure general manager Iain Bushell told CTV News. “They entered the building but there was already collapse occurring on the inside of the church so they backed out and it’s been a defensive or exterior fire fight ever since.”
Police officials have described the blaze as “suspicious.”
Roughly an hour later, a fire was also reported at the Catholic St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, reports CBC.
At least seven churches, nearly all Catholic, have come under apparent arson attacks throughout Canada in recent weeks. Activists and Indigenous advocates have also defaced Catholic churches with bloody red hand and foot prints, while demonstrations have also been staged involving stuffed animal and the slogan “we were children.”
While it remains unclear what precisely caused the fires, they are believed to be linked to the recent discovery of mass graves and unmarked graves containing over 1,000 human remains near Catholic-run residential schools for First Nations children.
The discovery came just few weeks after the grim discovery of 215 Indigenous children’s bodied by the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc First Nation in a mass grave at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Colombia.
Also last month, the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan announced its discovery of 751 unmarked graves near the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School, which operated from 1899 to 1997 in the area.
Another site with 182 unmarked graves was announced Wednesday after an investigation undertaken by the community of ʔaq’am, near Cranbrook, British Columbia.
About 150,000 First Nations children were forcibly separated from their families and communities and forced to attend the religious schools which were established in the 19th century to assimilate Indigenous children into the Anglo settler-colonial culture of Canada.
Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has confirmed that large amounts of Indigenous children fled such residential schools or died there, their whereabouts unknown. Former students have also testified to the horrific sexual, mental and physical abuse they suffered while enrolled at the schools. Myriad students died from preventable diseases that rapidly spread in unsanitary conditions, as well as in accidents and fires. Others disappeared when trying to escape. The Commission has denounced the schools for institutionalizing child neglect and for being organs of “cultural genocide.”
Indigenous groups and Canadian politicians are also demanding an apology from the Catholic Church – specifically Pope Francis. Activists have also rejected Canada Day celebrations this year to highlight the anti-Indigenous atrocities that the founding of the North American country entailed.