7 Famous Companies Who F**ked The World And Got Away With It
Big companies are like an obnoxious, chain-smoking roommate who owns a car when you don't -- just because we can't live without them doesn't mean that living with them is easy. Especially when they're, you know, trying to kill you and stuff.
You see, while the sales pitch of every successful company is to offer consumers some way to make our lives better, a whole bunch of them have secretly been doing the exact opposite. So, let's buckle down and discuss some of the worst examples ... that we know about, anyway.
Big Sugar's Been Covering Up Sugar's Link To Heart Disease For Decades
For five decades, the consensus on heart disease was that fat was to totally blame, and sugar was nothing but an innocent bystander. Your doctor probably didn't prescribe two Snickers bars to deal with those chest pains, but it's not like they could hurt, right? Yes, they totally can, and researchers have known about it since the '50s.
So, how come we're only hearing about sugar's link to heart disease now? Well, the small fortune the sugar industry gave those researchers might have something to do with it.
Worst yet, they already ate all their payment.
The academics supposedly looking out for us didn't just drop the ball on this one, they gleefully threw it at our groins. In the 1960s, the Sugar Association straight-up gave three scientists at Harvard $50,000 (in today's money) to write a review paper exonerating their sweet asses. All parties were quite open with each other about what their mission statement was -- Dr. Hegsted, one of the scientists, wrote, "We are well aware of your particular interest and will cover this as well as we can." The sugar industry secretly selected data for the paper and gave feedback on drafts until, finally, the scientists had conducted shillwork they could truly be proud of.
The paper wasn't published in some hack journal, either: that shit went straight to the pages of The New England Journal Of Medicine, which is basically the New York Times of American medical research. Happy with the result, these Avengers of sugar companies kept funding studies that shifted the blame to fat for decades, while they printed "nutritional tips" like these:
The Archies may or may not have been in their pockets, too.
And that's not even counting sugar's later shenanigans, like paying professors and researchers for studies that say that children who eat candy weigh less than children who don't. But what happened to those Harvard scientists that started it all? Well, Dr. Hegsted would later go on to become head of nutrition for the USDA, in charge of dietary guidelines ... where he would recommend that those dang kids today eat less sugar.
Johnson & Johnson Marketed Their Baby Powder To Women, Knowing It Might Cause Ovarian Cancer
Baby powder isn't just for babies: many women use the powder, which is made from talc, to keep their genitals dry and fresh-smelling. This should come as no surprise to beloved company Johnson & Johnson considering that, for decades, they heavily marketed their products towards ladies (and their parts).
They stopped just short of admitting "baby" is actually short for "baby-maker."
In case you're not familiar with the premise of this article yet, there's another side to this: It's quite possible that talcum powder causes ovarian cancer. We should note up front that the scientific evidence isn't at the "cigarettes cause cancer" level yet, but more studies are being funded, and it's not looking good. It also doesn't help that talc has -- let's say "occasionally" -- been found to be laced with asbestos. And we should probably note that way back in the 1970s, some scientists cut open some ovarian cancer tumors and found talc. So, uh, there's that.
Until recently, this possible cancer link wasn't common knowledge ... for anyone except Johnson & Johnson. Over a thousand women have recently sued the company for pushing the product on them despite knowing about the risk since at least the '80s. From a 1992 memo:
Note the lack of a "Maybe look into the cancer thing?" bullet point.
Then, in 1997, an outside consultant lovingly called them out on their bullshit:
Johnson & Johnson replied with a dancing baby GIF.
A jury recently found Johnson & Johnson liable for damages in one case to the tune of $72 million, with a juror being quoted as saying that their internal documents made it "clear they were hiding something." The company plans to appeal, so we'll all just have to see what happens. In the meantime, we're not saying you should stop using baby powder, but holy shit stop using baby powder.
Related: Reminder: You're More Likely To Be Struck By Lightning Than Get A Blood Clot From The Johnson & Johnson Jab
Well, There's Probably Teflon In Your Blood Right Now
Teflon is everywhere: your pans, your rain jacket, your sporting goods, and even your blood. You see, one of the chemicals used to make Teflon is called PFOA, or C8 -- and studies estimate that, like patriotism, it can be found in the bloodstream of almost every American (one study found C8 in 99.3 percent of umbilical cord blood).
Technically, every president is "the Teflon president" now.
That is not a good thing. Scientists have so far linked C8 to high cholesterol, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, pre-eclampsia, and cancer, and that's not even getting into birth defects. And here's the truly bad news about this chemical: it lingers. Unless someone pays for clean-up, it will stay in our drinking water (and thus our bodies) forever. Yes, unlike the popular product it makes possible, this son of a bitch is extremely good at sticking to things.
DuPont, makers of Teflon, knew about its toxicity for decades and covered it up, as a veritable slew of cringe-inducingly damning memos show (one from 1991 literally includes the comment "do the study after we get sued"). They did this despite knowing that their own employees, and people in towns near factories or dump sites, were dying from it. As early as the 1950s, they began to confirm this by monitoring and carrying out tests on their employees -- like asking them to smoke Teflon cigarettes, because DuPont is trying to complete one of Hell's bingo cards.
"Well, the '50s were a different time. Also the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, and '00s."
"Where was the Environmental Protection Agency?" you may be asking. Good question! In bed with DuPont, of course (for a time, the head of the EPA served on DuPont's board of directors). Future textbooks will have the DuPont and EPA logos next to the definition of crony capitalism.
Recently, DuPont/Chemours switched to using PFAS instead of C8. Before you rejoice at the thought of non-stick cookware again, you should know that a bunch of scientists have issued something called the Madrid Statement (which sounds like a script on Jeremy Renner's desk) arguing that these replacement chemicals are still dangerous. DuPont responded by assuring The New York Times that no, really, this time the chemicals are safe, and you can tell because DuPont would never lie to you. You know what they say: fool us once, shame on you; fool us twice, and we will make you drink those motherfucking chemicals, DuPont.
The EPA Ignored Reports That Pesticides Were Killing The World's Bees
The disappearance of bees across the globe would have catastrophic consequences on the ecosystem. And as we discussed literally yesterday: pesticides, the stuff we make specifically to kill off insects, have been killing off these insects.
"Oh God! Not the bees!" -Nicolas Cage, crying.
Once again, the EPA has known about this for a while and just kinda shrugged it off. The alleged scientists at Bayer and Syngenta, companies which make neonicotinoid pesticides, concluded a while back that the varroa mite is to blame for the bee genocide, not their product. Meanwhile, scientists in the real world said that it's not that simple: neonicotinoids and the mites are responsible. Both things are huge problems to the bees, who are basically stressing themselves out into an early bee-grave. Environmentalists and beekeepers tried for over a decade to get the EPA to withdraw approval for neonicotinoids, while Bayer and other companies kept on lobbying like there's no tomorrow (because there might not be).
And let it never be said that money can't buy you at least some form of happiness, because not only did Congress pass deregulation, but for years the EPA, over the objections of its own scientists, treated as gospel a dodgy study funded by Bayer. In the words of the EPA's own resident nerds, in a leaked memo:
America has been pretty good at ignoring dire precedents from Germany lately.
The EPA researchers specifically invalidated Bayers' "study," but their higher ups still decided it was no biggie and let the company continue pumping their bee-killing venom. Now, if this were something trivial that most people didn't care about, like the robustness of celery crops or whether or not a chemical was in their bloodstream, then Bayer probably could have gotten away with this for decades without anyone noticing. However, they didn't count on one thing: people really love bees. This has led to Bayer doing things like opening "Bee Care Centers" as PR attempts, which would be laughable if we didn't depend on bees for the little things that make our lives easier, like, oh yeah, our fucking food.
The American Chemistry Council Actively Works To Keep Cancer-Causing Chemicals Legal
You probably have hardwood flooring in your home, because we picture all our readers living in Queen-Anne-style estates. In which case, you might be interested to learn that a major hardwood flooring company (Lumber Liquidators) was recently selling Chinese-made laminate with formaldehyde in it -- the same formaldehyde that's carcinogenic. Not the good kind, because there is no good kind.
Despite all the brouhaha that accompanied this story, it turns out that there are no federal regulations about formaldehyde in homes. And for that, you can send a polite thank-you letter to the American Chemistry Council, which boasts such noted and upstanding clients as Dow Jones Chemical, ExxonMobil, and (again) Bayer. The ACC makes the Legion Of Doom look like your grandma's bridge club: they are the reason why BPA is still in food containers, and why no one knows exactly what chemicals are used in fracking, and why communities are kept in the dark about what the hell goes on inside their local chemical plants. Basically, if anyone ever tries to regulate a chemical that might be killing us, the ACC will use their combined bottomless money pit to make the problem go away.
"CANCER DISPENSER$" didn't have the same ring to it.
And hey, if that doesn't work, at least they'll have the satisfaction of having slowed down the process much as they could -- as they did with silica dust, while workers continued to get sick and die from exposure.
Of course, all of the ACC's efforts would be for naught if it wasn't for all the politicians kindly willing to step into their pockets. If you want to know which senators are for sale, two of the most important are James Inhofe (noted global warming apologist) and David Vitter (noted same-sex marriage opponent, abstinence-only education advocate, and fan of escort services). Yes, it should maybe worry you that Vitter was the lead Republican co-sponsor of the Chemical Safety For The 21st Century Act, and that Inhofe is the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee On Environment And Public Works. If they were judges, they'd have to recuse themselves. Then again, senators are only tasked with making the laws of the land. Nothing too important.
Pharmaceuticals Have Been Hiding Negative Drug Tests For Decades ... And It's Perfectly Legal
Before a company can sell a new drug, it has to run tests to make sure it works and doesn't give people any unexpected superpowers. The problem? Lawmakers and policymakers, in their wisdom, have decided that companies don't have to report a given study if its results/conclusions are negative -- meaning that they can just test and retest a dangerous drug until they can pick and choose whatever results they want. That's what happened with anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx: the company, Merck & Co. knew about the risks (heart attacks, strokes, death), but no one else did.
They knew there's a 1-in-7 chance you'll turn into Olympic figure skating champion Dorothy Hamill, and didn't tell us.
This is especially problematic with newer medicines, because they haven't stood the test of time, and because most more-or-less independent experts haven't gotten to perform all of those intensive tests that scientists somehow find time to do between their day jobs as supermodel gigolos. The outside experts that do get to test the drugs, often under contract from the companies, mysteriously fail to disclose negative results, like panicky teenagers hiding report cards from their parents. Except, you know, with way more people suffering and dying.
The Hoosier Cancer Research Network, for instance, didn't bother to tell anyone that Avastin was no good for breast cancer patients (in fact, it harmed volunteers) while some doctors continued prescribing it. And they're not even the worst offenders:
Stanford is like the Harvard of not reporting medical tests.
Again, the authorities are aware of this problem and don't seem terribly bothered. Remember how we mentioned that no one but Merck & Co. knew about Vioxx's side effects? There's one exception: federal regulators totally knew the whole time. Did they tell the CDC about it? Nah. (By the way, Tamiflu is a bullshit drug. Save your money.)
One final detail to depress you (and then we'll move on to a different set of depressing details): the medical journal PLOS Medicine states that up to half of all clinical trials are never published. Now those are the kinds of odds that can really make life as a breast cancer patient exciting.
Big Oil Spends Hundreds Of Millions Tricking People Into Thinking There's No Climate Change
We've touched on this before, but there's a common set of tactics that the truly evil companies can use to keep selling a product against humanity's best interests. It goes something like this:
1) Create (a word which here means "pay for") "scientific" studies which contradict the majority opinion (smoking is bad for you).
2) Point to these bullshit studies' existence as "proof" that the facts aren't in (maybe smoking is good for you!).
There have been several books written about this "manufactured ignorance," and most relevant to our case is Merchants of Doubt. The book addresses how Big Oil allied themselves with crank scientists who had previously worked for Big Tobacco, who were more concerned about environmentalists becoming the Red Menace and the clearly-on-the-horizon-any-day-now One World Government than they were with doing science. Together, they began to develop this playbook. What is "science" in the face of the looming threat of socialism?!
So it won't surprise you at all that money from Big Oil ends up lining the pockets of prominent climate change deniers. One guy at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Willie Soon, received $1.25 million dollars for his soul ... which is probably not great for his long-term prospects, but in the meantime, hey, money. In all, it's estimated that oil companies throw $114 freaking million a year into the never-ending dumpster fire of climate change denialism:
Surely this is more cost-effective than just looking into renewable fuel sources.
And it's not like this whole thing caught them by surprise and this is the best they could come up with -- Exxon has known about climate change since 1981. That's like finding out there's a gas leak in your building and putting aromatic candles around it instead of warning the other residents (which would at least explain their brain-dead behavior).
Nimby thinks that if you were depressed by this article you should write to your local, state, and federal representatives, or, if you're young, you could try to tweet some of these peoples' faces off. But really, writing a letter is a better option. It's more classy, you know?
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What the Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel of Cosmic Horror, the third book in David Wong's John Dies at the End series, is available now!