What's Going On Here?
Dark Waters, the new eco-thriller by Todd Haynes out last week in the UK, shines a light on the murky endeavours of chemical company Dupont and its affiliates. The conglomerate is responsible for polluting the water supply in West Virginia from its plant in Parkersburg with the chemical PFAS. The leak has since been linked to a number of health conditions such as high cholesterol, birth defects, pregnancy induced hypertension and testicular and kidney cancers.
What Does This Mean?
The film is a sobering reminder of environmental abuses in supply chains and corporate accountability, or lack thereof. As early as 1954 employees from the plant in West Virginia noted that this chemical was likely to be toxic. Dupont continued to dump the waste product into surrounding water supplies over the following years. In 1984 samples from Ohio river demonstrated toxicity levels eight times higher than average and by 1989 many employees were diagnosed with cancer and leukaemia.
However, while these events were detailed in documents produced by the corporation, they were withheld from the media and thus the general public until 2001. In 2017 the chemical company finally paid out $671 million in more than 3550 personal injury lawsuits occurring from the leak and reached a $16.5 million settlement with the environmental protection agency in 2005.
The reality of the scandal means that virtually all of us have been exposed to the chemical that’s found in Teflon products, takeaway food containers, stain resistant carpets and sofas. Contamination has now been detected in all major water supplies in the US and is widespread in rainwater.