NOW with Bill Moyers; 215; Gun industry whistleblower; Environmental toxins
You You're watching now with Bill Moyers with contributions from NPR News. Tonight, on now, a gun industry insider makes an astonishing claim that gun executives are deliberately looking the other way, while tens of thousands of
guns are sold to criminals. I guess that there are probably a lot of people out there in the firearms industry are afraid of what I have to say. A now exclusive. And while millions of Americans finish up income tax returns, some corporations are skipping the country to skip out on taxes. And Bill Moyers wanted to know what's in his body. You had 31 different PCBs of this whole family similar chemicals. It's a problem all Americans face. All that and Bill Moyer's journal tonight on now. Funding for now has been provided by our sole corporate funder for over 50 years. We've put retirement and pension products to work for those in the public service. Now we're doing the same for the rest of America, Mutual of America, for all of America, the spirit of
America. And by the Colberg Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation. And by contributions to your PBS stations from viewers like you. Thank you. From our studios in New York, Bill Moyers. Welcome to now. The war in Iraq has not been easy, but it has been quick. The peace will not be easy or quick. A country liberated from tyranny now faces anarchy. In the last 24 hours, there's been a breakdown of law and order across Iraq. In PR reports that even hospitals in Baghdad are being looted. Rovery among Muslim clerics has led the violence. And in the north, Turks encouraged her at each other's throats. The news agency Reuters reported this afternoon that the United States is stepping in to run Iraq's oil industry, the country's main source of revenue. In the weeks ahead, we'll continue to cover the difficult task of peace in Iraq. But in this broadcast,
we're staying home to report on what's happening right here in America. Recently, we asked you to tell us what news you think is not being covered, at least 2,000 of you have responded. And one of the first letters underscored the catch-22 inherit in our invitation. My problem is, I don't know what news we are not getting. That's what I depend on the journalist to tell me. Since the only subject being reported on is the war, it makes a person wonder if everything else that's happening in the world is newsworthy at all. Be Kelly. One of the most important but least reported stories has been happening this week in Congress. On Wednesday, even as the battle for Baghdad ended, the House of Representatives passed a bill to protect the gun industry from lawsuits. It's the first industry to be given such blanket immunity. And it comes at a time when cities across the country are suing gun companies for making weapons and then looking the other way as they're sold to criminals. There's something behind this story that will take your breath away.
Here's our report prepared by NPR's Daniels Werdling and now producer Brian Myers. Bob Ricker has had a change of heart. He spent his career fighting for the gun industry. He was the gunmaker's voice in Washington DC. But now Rickers decided to spill some of the industry's most troubling secrets. You do not look on the face of it like a turncoat or like a formidable enemy, which is how a lot of people have described you. I guess that there are probably a lot of people out there in the firearms industry are afraid of what I have to say. And what this insider says is astonishing. He says executives at America's leading gun companies know that some dealers are selling their guns to criminals. Tens of thousands of crime guns every year and the companies refuse to stop supplying those dealers. The industry knows and they've known for a long time
that there are bad gun dealers. There are bad distributors and these people are the source of a large portion or a majority of all crime guns. So you'd be sitting with top gun industry executives and people would be openly talking about the fact that their guns are being sold to criminals and they knew who was doing it. Yeah, they, you know, they knew how to find out about who was doing it. We're talking about one of the issues that almost everybody in America worries about. How does this country stop criminals from getting guns? More than 10,000 people were murdered last year with guns. More than 40,000 were wounded. Everybody from the president to local police has to grapple with this problem. But Ricker says one group could staunch the torrent of illegal guns faster than just about anyone. The gun makers. So you're saying that any day of the week, any gun industry executive could figure out which of their dealers are funneling guns to crux? Yeah, or where there's a problem. And it's easy. Sure it would be easy.
You might hear Bob Ricker's name a lot more in the coming months. Cities like Chicago and Los Angeles are dragging the gun makers to court. They're trying to prove that the companies are guilty of what they call willful blindness. Mayors like James Hahn of Los Angeles say Rickers, they're a star witness. It's stunning. Robert Rickers have a day of it because it's what we suspected all along but to have an insider like Robert Ricker. Say it like that to tell it like it is. I mean, this is no pun intended the smoking gun we were looking for. Just this week the New York Times called Ricker the gun industry's first major whistleblower. This is the first time he's told his story in detail on TV. Bob Ricker has been one of the most powerful lobbyists in the gun world since the 1980s. He ran the industry's main trade group in Washington DC. He was its point man on Capitol Hill and Ricker was the gun maker's voice on TV.
There is no manufacturer of any product that can guarantee that the end consumer is not going to misuse the product in some way. But privately Bob Ricker concluded that the gun makers could be doing a lot more to stop criminals from getting their guns. He says he realized from talking with industry executives that they knew how to curb the market and crime guns. As you watched this carnage across the country, did it bother you mainly because you're an American citizen and you hated seeing this death and misery or did it bother you because you're a business man. You represent the gun manufacturers and you thought it was bad for their image. Well, it was bad all the way around. I mean, it was bad for business. They were paying up millions of dollars in legal fees to defend themselves. To understand Ricker's charges, you need to understand how criminals get their guns. One of the main ways is simple. They go to crooked dealers. Watch this video which undercover cops made near Detroit. They're conducting a sting operation
to catch crooked gun dealers. The cops are about to make what's called a straw purchase. That's when a criminal who can't buy guns legally gets one through a friend who can. On the left, one of the cops is posing as a felon. Freeze the frame for a moment. The laws say that a dealer cannot sell guns to anybody who they have reason to believe is a felon. The felon's solution? He brings a buddy to buy the gun for him and the salesman goes along. He cheerfully reminds them to lie. The manager comes over to check this. It's your gun. It's your gun. Okay, because the manager has to. This is called a straw purchase. It's highly illegal. I don't know why it's considered highly illegal. And now the felon has his gun. A federal report says that straw purchases like this one are the single biggest way that criminals get guns. The police and federal agents have been trying to crack down on crooked sales
since the 1970s. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the ATF runs a national tracing system to help them do it. There's a whole center in West Virginia where federal employees spend all their time tracing who bought and sold crime guns. It's a fleece that with ATF and I have a gun trace and need some help with fees. This ATF center traces around 200,000 crime guns every year. Here's how it works. Whenever local police find a gun at a crime scene, they're supposed to contact the center and report the gun's brand name and serial number. Then ATF calls the manufacturer and asks which dealer did you sell this gun to. Gun makers have to keep a record of every transaction. Those ATF calls give gun makers the information they need to find out which dealers sell crime guns. Jerry Nunziato was the head of ATF's tracing center until a few years ago. He helped design the system. Nunziato says he wanted to make it easy for the gun companies to figure out which dealers were funneling their guns to criminals. He says he'd plead with
industry executives to act on this information. I would attend at least four or five major industry shows a year and put on presentation. I would offer to give them the data. Occasionally at these meetings that we would have at the industry, an industry member would ask if they could see a printout of all the guns that they manufactured that were involved in crime. I would immediately produce it for them and give it to them. Nunziato says, look, do you want to see how easy it is to figure out which dealers might be crooked. It takes only a few minutes. If you were a manufacturer and you were interested in what dealers were handling the firearms that turn into crime guns, you could buy this freedom of information act database from ATF. It costs $50. It's published every year. I can buy this data? Yes, you can buy. $50. Nunziato says here's what you could do with this disc. Type in a few commands and presto. The computer shows all of your company's guns that turned up in crimes in a recent period. So this is a manufacturer. It's a type of weapon. This is a revolver. It gives you
the caliber and this is the number, the dealer number, the license number that's assigned to a particular firearm to deal with by ATF. So every dealer in the country has a number like this. Yes, in this number like your driver's license. Exactly. A few more commands and the computer lists every dealer in the country who sold any of your company's guns that ended up in a crime. And then the computer ranks the dealers according to who sold the most crime guns. It's shocking to me. The list shows that this company sells its guns through thousands of dealers and among those thousands of dealers 36 stand out. Those 36 dealers were responsible for selling over 100 crime guns each. So Nunziato says the company could easily identify the fishy dealers and stop selling them guns. The question I would ask why is this small group only involved with crime gun sales and why is this tiny group only involved with the vast majority of the crime gun sales? And that brings us back to Bob Ricker and the executives he was working for
in the gun industry. Publicly, executives kept insisting there was no way they could find out who the crooked dealers were. Ricker says they were lying. They have access to this kind of information the whole time he was working for them. And he says executives talked about it just about every time they met. I would hear the horror stories that they would tell about, well gee we just we we were called last week by ATF and and we found out that there was a gun dealer in Florida who was who purchased you know two or three hundred guns from us and and you know what his license wasn't valid and he went out and sold them on the street. I mean these were these were topics of discussion at every every board meeting every major gathering of the industry. Ricker says he couldn't believe it. The executives decided to ignore ATF's tracing reports. He says it was part of a careful legal strategy. Local governments began suing the gun companies in the 1990s
like the states were suing Big Tobacco. Ricker says gun industry lawyers figure well if the executives don't look at the tracing data they can honestly testify. We don't know which of our dealers might be crooks. They have set up internal procedures so that they don't know. Ricker says industry leaders eventually decided that this issue of crook of dealers was so potentially explosive that they shouldn't even talk about it at their meetings anymore. They worry that opposition lawyers might learn about their conversation and that could hurt the gun companies in court. One lawyer in particular who's very influential within the industry. He became adamant in the late 90s that these meetings shouldn't even take place. Ricker says there's one more reason why executives of the gun companies refuse to crack down on dealers. Profits. One study has found that as many as 25 percent of all handguns sold in America end up being used in a crime.
Ricker says some gun makers could go out of business if criminals couldn't buy their guns. So you're telling us that you're sitting in meetings. Meeting after meeting with top gun industry executives. You're saying folks everybody knows how to find out who's selling guns to criminals and these executives are telling you they don't want to do it because they don't want to hurt their profits. Right. They don't want to they don't want to know. They just don't they don't want to hear about that. By the late 1990s Ricker was publicly proclaiming that it was time for his industry to reform. Industry leaders didn't want to hear it. This memo dated June 1999 is from a top gun trade group. The title reads raining in Ricker. It's addressed to several prominent gun executives and the memo says somebody needs to direct Mr. Ricker to become silent. One month later Bob Ricker resigned and he decided to go over to the other
side. So there I was in the courtroom and I looked out to the courtroom and I saw Bob Ricker in the back row. Dennis Hennigan is one of the top lawyers suing the gun makers. In fact on the day when Rickers showed up in court Hennigan was arguing a gun case. As I was packing up my files to exit the courtroom he came up to me and he said you know we ought to sit down and talk. I viewed the situation developing that the industry was not being responsible and I felt a moral obligation to come forward. We tried to talk to some of the industry executives who Ricker says have allowed dealers to funnel their guns to criminals and we tried to talk to the industry leader whose name appears on that memo that says Rickers should be silenced and none of them would agree to an interview. But one industry official did agree to talk. Lawrence Keane is vice president of the gun makers main trade group
Robert Ricker. What's your reaction to him or what he's saying now? Well I it's not appropriate for me to respond to the specific allegations. We'll respond to those in court. But let me just say that the notion or the suggestion that the industry is willingly and knowingly selling guns to criminals is patently false. It's offensive. It's really an outrageous allegation and it's just not true. Do executives in the gun industry know or could they know? You know which distributors and dealers are funneling guns to criminals? No they don't know that they can't know that. Do you think executives in the gun industry would like to know which distributors and dealers are funneling guns to criminals? Well sure we would like to see those individuals put out in business. We'd like to see those individuals arrested prosecuted and thrown in jail. But I think with your question asked is is there some way that the industry could know who those individuals are? I don't know how they would find out that information which seems strange since government officials have reminded company
executives over the years how they can get that information. ATF sent this letter to one of the best known companies. It says the information will be provided on a computer disk if the company sends a check for 50 bucks. But Keane says no, gun makers can't get that information from ATF. He says in any case it's not appropriate for the industry to crack down on Crooked Dealers. He says that's the job of ATF. And what ATF is repeatedly told industry is it does not want industry to try to ferret out or conduct its own investigations to find out who the corrupt dealers are because doing that Dan will jeopardize investigations and jeopardize the lives of law enforcement officers. But look at this government document from two years ago. This is the Justice Department's and ATF's official strategy to cut down on gun violence. The report calls on gun companies to police their own industry and it asks executives to identify and refuse to supply dealers that have a pattern of selling guns to
criminals. I mean McDonald's even has a has a system where you know if they find a McDonald's restaurant who's putting mustard on a big Mac they're cut off you know I mean it's it's common business practices. So if a dealer is selling to criminals cut them off. Here's what I don't get though. If it's so easy as you and as the folks who've worked at ATF say to figure out which dealers are probably funneling guns to criminals and why doesn't the ATF go after them and arrest them put them in jail. The ATF tries to I mean let's just look at the numbers over a hundred thousand gun dealers out there and how many employees the ATF have or agents. Only about 2600 investigators actually and they're responsible for the tobacco industry the alcohol industry overseeing explosives not just guns. ATF is overworked under staff and underpaid
and the industry knows that and that's just part of the problem. The gun lobby has convinced Congress over the years to make it incredibly hard for the ATF to shut down crooked gun dealers. In fact the NRA has called on Congress to abolish ATF and the NRA has an influential friend. Attorney General John Ashcroft is one of the NRA's most loyal supporters. Our prosecutors and agents have Ashcroft just took over the ATF under the Homeland Security Plan. We wanted to interview ATF officials for this story but Ashcroft's office said no. The mayor of Los Angeles has Ashcroft's policies are making it harder for cities to fight crime. I think the Attorney General's position is an embarrassment to the country. We ought to be doing everything we can to make sure the people who shouldn't have guns don't get them. And the nation's top law enforcement officer actually stand in the way of law enforcement agencies doing what they should do. So Los Angeles and dozens of other cities
are suing the gun makers. So our activist groups like the NAACP there's no law that specifically requires gun makers to crack down on the criminal trade but Han and the other plaintiffs are coming up with novel legal strategies. No I can't point and say that Colt or Smith and Wesson actually murdered somebody on the streets of Los Angeles but I think their deliberate indifference causes that that crime. I think that's what what Ricker points out is that that's the dirty little secret that they don't want to admit. The dirty little secret is they know their products are getting into the hands of criminals and they could have done something about it. So far the gun companies have been winning the majority of their legal battles but that could change. One prominent pro gun lawyer told the magazine Gun Week that Rickers charges are devastating. Devastating indeed and it explains why the gun distributors dealers and manufacturers are flexing their muscle in
Congress to get sweeping immunity from citizen lawsuits. If they succeed in the Senate as they have in the house those lawsuits with Bob Ricker as the star witness would be thrown out. Sarah Brady has something to say about that. Her husband then the White House press secretary was paralyzed by gunfire during the assassination attempt on President Reagan since then Sarah Brady has been leading a campaign against gun violence. She says the legislation passed this week by the house would slam the courthouse doors to people who have been wronged. Oh yes that $50 computer disk that traces which dealers sell guns to criminals. Well the ATF under Attorney General John Ashcroft is no longer allowed to give out that information. When we asked you two weeks ago to let us know what stories and issues you thought were not being covered your response was valuable and voluminous. Many of you want to know what's happened to all those
corporate scandals. What's the current status of Kenneth Leigh and other CEOs implicated in Enron and other similar business scams? Are any of them actually behind bars? Gordon Bennett. Not yet Kenneth Leigh in fact has yet to be indicted for any wrong doing in the Enron debacle. Enron creditors though are suing Mr. Leigh and his wife for $84 million that the corporation lent the happy couple a few years ago. On our now website on pbs.org you can find out what's happening to other corporate executives embroiled in scandal. Some of you wanted to know what's happened to executive pay since our report on the subject a year ago. Here's an excerpt from an interview we did then with Bud Crystal one of the countries foremost analyst on the subject. When I did a study of CEO pay in 1973 for major companies the ratio of pay to the CEO to the worker was 140 times then it kept rising and rising well over 300 300 now it's very close to 500 times. Since I report the economy in the stock
market as everyone knows have continued their downward slide. 108,000 people lost their jobs just last month almost half a million in the last two months and over two million in the last two years. During this time the biggest paychecks and 200 large companies have shrunk to an average of just 10.8 million dollars a year. However the median pay of chief executives in those companies still rose faster than the typical workers income and executive pay remains 500 times greater than worker pay. Some corporate boards still don't get it. Honeywell Corporation shares fell 27% last year but Honeywell gave its retiring chief executive a four million dollar bonus. Sort of like the coach who gets a raise despite a losing season. Walt Disney, Abbott Labs and Cardinal Help also increased the pay of their executives even as their investors were suffering large losses. Continental Airlines gave its CEO nearly 15 million dollars in compensation even as the company is laying off 1200 additional workers.
Here's a letter from Liz and Jim McGowan with a question about another big story concerning politics and corporations. How many corporations that do business with the Department of Defense have offshore tax shelters? We are looking into those military contracts but there is some good news. 152 members of Congress, a bipartisan group, have introduced a bill called the Corporate Patriot Enforcement Act that would close down all offshore tax havens used by some of America's biggest corporations to avoid taxes. Take a look at this ad campaign that was launched by supporters of that effort this week. In the sands of Iraq our soldiers risk their lives for our country. At the same time big corporations are abandoning our country and setting up phony headquarters in the sands of Bermuda. President Bush and Vice President Cheney are asking American taxpayers for $75 billion to pay for the war. But they won't close the loopholes that let corporations cheat us out of $70 billion a year in taxes. We're doing our part to support our brave men
and women overseas. Why aren't they? Those ads are being run in several places in the country including the Texas District of House Majority Leader Tom Delay and the Illinois District of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastard. At a Washington press conference this week sponsors of the ads said Hastard and Delay are refusing to allow the House of Representatives to vote on the Corporate Patriot Enforcement Act. We are calling on ordinary Americans to call the wrong legislators to vote on these bills. But first calling on Dennis Hastard and Tom Delay to allow the bill to come to the floor. This columnist Arianna Huffington is one of the co-founders of the Bermuda Project, the citizens organization that is trying to end overseas corporate tax shelters. Representative from the internet website moveown.org from the campaign for America's future and from citizens for tax justice also spoke at the event. The kind of tax sheltering that is going on today in corporate America and among wealthy Americans is unprecedented in the history of our nation's
tax system. It's not a left-right issue actually because many conservatives are feeling also passionate about the need to abolish tax shelters. The Bermuda Project has posted the names of companies using overseas tax shelters on its website. These are some of America's best known corporations. Bank of America, Boeing, American Express, Sarah Lee, Halliburton. So you have Halliburton for example which is in a way the poster child for this because the company that had been run by Dick Cheney until he joined the George Bush's presidential ticket and which on his watch went from having nine tax shelter subsidiaries to having 44. Halliburton makes most of its money from oil field services. And just this week the Army Corps of Engineers disclosed that despite its use of offshore tax breaks, Halliburton got a contract to put out oil well fires in Iraq that could bring the company tens of millions of dollars
in profits. And it got that contract from the Bush Cheney administration with no competitive bid. Halliburton subsidiaries again, despite the company's use of offshore tax breaks, also have government contracts to build prison cells at Guantanamo Bay and to provide cooking, construction, power and fuel transportation to the Army and Navy. The Defense Department headed by Vice President Cheney's close friend Donald Rumsfeld gave no public notice for awarding the Halliburton contract, claiming that in a time of war that's classified information. It's a real irony that the cost of the tax shelters is about the same as the cost of the war. So at the time when we are paying over $70 billion for the war, we are losing over $70 billion in tax shelters. That has to stop. Which brings us back to your emails. One of you ask exactly how many bombs have been dropped so far in Iraq? Well, we don't have the latest figures, but for the first 16 days of war, the answer would be 12,000 precision-guided bombs alone. This week, the newspaper
roll call reported that the Bush administration has quietly doubled the amount of money it is seeking from Congress to reload its stock of cruise missiles, smart bombs and old-fashioned bullets. Providing, in the newspaper's words, a modest wartime bonus to several of the nation's leading munitions makers. Who will profit from the war while the deficit grows and health and education are blown to smithereens? I'm a high school English teacher in California who just got her pink slip. Betsy Taylor. Betsy Taylor is just one of many. This week it was reported that 25,000 primary and secondary school teachers in California have been notified that they will be laid off. The state is broke, although that's not keeping Democratic Governor Gray Davis from building a new death row unit at San Quentin Prison at a cost of $220 million. We received several letters asking why only $3 million have been allocated to that independent commission investigating the terrorist attacks of September 11th.
Well, recently, Congress and the White House agreed to give an additional $9 million to the work of the commission. Many of you wrote to ask for coverage of the secret trials of suspected terrorists and the Draft Domestic Security and Aspen Act of 2003, also known as Patriot 2. We reported on this subject on February 7th with Chuck Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity. You can learn more about Patriot 2 on our website at pbs.org. Many of you asked for more coverage of the rest of the world, Civil War in Columbia, the resurgence of chaos in Afghanistan, hunger in Africa. But most of you asked for more news about power and democracy. What's happening behind closed doors in Washington? Who wins and who loses? Several of you put the environment at the top of your list, especially the rollback of environmental protections. Cliff Ivy wrote, the House of Representatives voted to cut $844 million next year and billions more over the following nine years from veterans medical care. And this Faman Baratian Massachusetts,
my umbrella topic would be what's happening in the schoolhouse. Finally, this letter. How is it all governments fault for there not being enough money for the homeland? Why not have industry payout better wages so people don't need tax cuts to survive? How is it okay for service economy jobs to pay so dismally compared to production industry? Jeff Soclinic. You'll find more of your letters about what's not being covered on our website at pbs.org. And you can go there as well for information about the Bermuda project. Move on. And Ariana Huffington's best-selling book Pigs at the Troph. Next week on now, the American Work Week is under assault. There's a whole slew of measures that have been taken to hurt worker rights. What hard-won labor protections will fall by the wayside if new legislation passes in Congress? Next week on now.
Connect to now with Bill Moyer's online at pbs.org. What's not in the news? Now viewers respond. Find out how criminals get guns and read about lawsuits against the gun industry. Is your environment dangerous to your health? Discover the Bodyburden Study. Connect to now at pbs.org. Once again, Bill Moyer's. I want to talk now not as a journalist, but as a guinea pig or as my buddy Bill O'Reilly might say, a lab rat. Most of us don't know it, but our bodies are laboratories for a vast chemical experiment. We're bombarded daily by toxins. They're in the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe. They're in the things we touch every day. Look at this headline. Quote, government report says would play sets pose a cancer risk.
The story goes on to report that scientists now know that children playing on millions of outdoor wood playground sets face an increased risk of bladder and lung cancer from arsenic exposure. But chemicals are showing up in everyone's bodies, not just kids. And that's how I became a guinea pig. I volunteered for a test to discover my body burden. That's the term scientists use to describe the chemicals accumulated in our bodies simply by living in our world. I was one of the first participants in the study. Here's a clip. In this arm? Perfectly. That's where your veil is good at. For the purpose of this broadcast, I volunteered to take part in their study. A much larger project is underway at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. And you're looking for chemicals. Not the body's normal chemicals. We're looking for industrial chemicals. Things that weren't around 100 years ago that your grandfather didn't have in his blood or fat. We're looking for those chemicals that have been
put into the environment and through environmental exposures, things we eat, things we breathe, water we drink, are now incorporated in our bodies. They just weren't there. You really think you will find chemicals in my place. Oh, no question. No question. I'll be back in the moment to tell you the results of that study, but right now I want to introduce you to Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group. Mr. Cook's organization commissioned that study, along with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine here in New York, and Common Wheel, An Unprofit Health and Environmental Research Institute based in California. Welcome to now. Thanks. Why did you do that study? We did that study for a couple of reasons. One, every time you eat fruit, every time you breathe air, every time you put gas in your tank or paint your room, there's an opportunity for some of these toxic chemicals to find their way into you. We wanted to document that, and oddly enough, it hadn't really been documented before. The study that you were a part of as nine individuals was the group of people who've been most extensively tested
for a wide range of chemicals ever. And in some cases, the levels we found in people were very high, and these weren't incinerator workers or factory workers. They're folks like you, maybe sit behind a typewriter all day or making phone calls, not out in a place where you'd expect a high chemical exposure. Just living. Just living. Just living. Well, at the end of that documentary, I came back to find out what they had found out. So look at this. We tested for 150 different industrial chemicals, and you have 84, or those 150. Wow. 84, 84. And the PCB case, you had 31 different PCBs of this whole family of similar chemicals. They are all over the place, and there's probably a function of where you live. You live in some local where PCBs were in the environment, and you got them into you through the hair you breathe, some of them are get down in groundwater, some of them get coated on food.
You didn't get them sort of in one afternoon because you ate a poisoned apple. I may have eaten a portion of that, but I'm not sure. Now, I'm almost 70 years old, so clearly those PCBs haven't killed me. Are there any other stuff that I've been taking into in my lifetime? Now, I think the real issue becomes what does it do to your risk in the case of PCBs of cancer, in the case of PCBs, also nervous system disorders. You've lived a long time, and I hope you live a lot longer. The real issue here is, do we know enough at this stage to be allowing this wide range of chemicals to get into our bodies without fully understanding their effects? And the answer is we don't know that. They're not well studied. Yeah, you tested for what, 210 chemicals? Yes, I like that. I brought these figures in one year alone. I think this was 98. American companies manufactured 6.5 trillion pounds of 9,000 different chemicals. And the major companies alone, this does not include the small chemical companies,
dumped 7.1 billion pounds of 650 chemicals into our air and water. So we don't know what most of these chemicals are doing. No, we don't. Most people are surprised to find out that it's legal to dump so much chemical into the environment, toxic chemical. Most people are surprised to find out that when they go to the grocery store, a pharmacy or a hardware store, that a lot of the chemicals that are in those products, the federal government does not stand behind them with safety testing. There are no safety tests required in many cases. I don't want people to be alarmed unnecessarily to think that you don't either, to think that well just because we have these chemicals, they're going to cause cancer or they're going to cause leukemia or whatever. So what's the balance we have to strike here? Well, I think the first balance that we should strike is a more rigorous testing system before we allow the chemicals on the market. Some chemicals are tested more rigorously. For example, pesticides are required to have 120 tests conducted on them. Now, we have quibbles ourselves with the kinds of tests that are done
and how they're interpreted, but the fact remains before you can bring a new pesticide on the market, you have to do that testing because it's going to be in food. That's not the case with industrial chemicals. Very few tests are required. Well, industrial chemicals meaning... Oh, an industrial chemical might be something that's in gasoline or a chemical that's in paint or something that's in a consumer product. Another example of a pesticide that got out of the regulatory realm and should have been regulated is the arsenic that you described earlier in play sets. That's technically a pesticide. And anyone who's seen the high school play knows that arsenic's bad stuff and here we have an on play sets for decades until finally EPA decides, hey, you know what, this arsenic's kind of dangerous. We ought to take steps to get it off the market. But doesn't this mean a lot of periods are going to go out and pull their kids off the play sets or not take them out this weekend to play on those play sets when that may not be necessarily called for? Well, in the case of arsenic, I would say if I had an arsenic treated play set, I wouldn't let my child play on it.
And if I had an arsenic treated deck and I was out on it all the time, even now the government's saying don't eat on it, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is saying for play sets, wash your children's hands every time they play on it. Ridiculous advice when you think about it. We shouldn't have had these products on the market to begin with. And it takes incredible effort to pull them off once they get on. How does it come to be that we know that arsenic causes cancer? Can cause problem. And yet all of these play sets are out there all across the country. Where does the system break down so that the knowledge we have does not get to the parents who ought to know about it? Well, I think first of all, the government makes a decision in favor of the industry that it's safe to use this material. Once that decision is made and lobbyists for the pressure treated wood industry were very good at this for decades, they made the case to the government that this was a safe material that not much of it rubbed off, that it didn't get into soil. Well, we all now know as a result of the scientific research, that was not true.
So even in the Bush administration, you have action being taken during a time when there's not a lot of regulatory action on the environment against play sets that have arsenic and deck wood that has arsenic, they're phasing that out of the market. So it takes a lot, but the lobbying that goes into making sure that a product once it's on stays on the market, however dangerous it may turn out to be, is really the difference between an informed public that's aware of risks and a government that basically turns a blind eye and lets the industry run the show. To its credit, the Environmental Protection Agency just last week confirmed for the first time ever that kids are more at risk from chemicals in the environment than adults. That's right. They said that for certain kinds of cancer-causing agents, the ones that act through mutation, the risk for children can be tenfold greater than the risk for adults in terms of the carcinogenic lifetime risk. Kids get a dose of those and they're going to be much more vulnerable to getting cancer later in life.
Any PA did come out and say, yes, that's the case. I think this is going to happen now with a lot of other realms of science that affect environmental policy. I think we're going to find out that kids are much more vulnerable to nerve system toxins that might affect their development and their function. We may find issues with autism and asthma related to environmental exposure in children. We already have a lot of evidence and I think that's going to mean shifting the policy to be more protective of kids and doing that will be more protective of all of us. What effect do you think your study will have on public policy? Well, we're already seeing some major effects from this study and other body burden studies that are being done around the country. Let me give you a great example of study done in the Bay Area out in San Francisco looking at women and mercury content of their blood and found out that women who were eating a lot of fish had very high levels of mercury, so high in fact that if they were thinking about having kids it might be a risk to the infant.
So what happened the state attorney general jumped in and filed a lawsuit against grocery chains out there requiring them to label fish as being high in mercury so that people could avoid them if they if they were informed. Well, that kind of reaction that's what industry worries about. That once you find out what is in people and began working back to the conclusion that we ought to avoid the exposure you start flipping policy questions on their head instead of waiting until you prove a chemical's guilty and in this country it's the chemicals who are innocent until they're proven guilty. Once you flip that on its head and say until you can prove it's safe we ought to at least inform people that they're going to be exposed laws like that that I think our study and others like it are inspiring industries fighting very hard mostly as you know they win those fights but once we find out the chemicals are in us I think it makes it harder to win. Industry says that that standard of study would be so expensive economically
that the good effects that we gain from the chemicals in our environment can better living through chemistry that it would be too costly and we'd lose too much if we submitted all of these chemicals to the kind of high bar of testing that you are advocating. Well and I think they've you know they've got a point we've got all these chemicals on the market now it's it's too late to start from scratch with each and every one of them take them off the market until we know they're safe so that's not a possibility but you know they they raise this argument all the time when it was found that lead in children was impairing their development and affecting their mental function the obvious solution was to take lead out of gasoline and get it out of lead paint well the industries for each of those products fought four decades to stop that from happening. But let me show you a headline from a recent edition of the Los Angeles Times the headline says EPA Environmental Protection Agency plans to relax toxic emission standards the proposal would allow businesses
such as chemical plants to monitor their own releases and apply less rigorous controls. Yes self-regulation is very much the watchword in the Bush administration unfortunately and that's a direct result what the headline you're reading is a direct result of administration policy. The president when he was governor of Texas had a similar kind of approach for pollution from power plants and other facilities in Texas he was going to have them volunteer to cut air pollution. We didn't find out until right after the election that that no one had signed up for it none of the companies had cut back any of their pollution in a voluntary way and now that policy has been scrapped. Well that now that has moved to the national stage so volunteering for auto safety volunteering for pollution control volunteering for all manner of things is seen as a substitute for regulation. Industry if they were sitting here would tell us that look they're simply
correcting the balance that there was too much there been too much command and control regulation by government of of industry and that they're just trying to to strike a better balance right. Yeah oh sure that's the line they'll they'll make the case that we've got a regulatory apparatus out there that is constricting the economy that's hurting job formation that's making it difficult for people to invest in inner cities because of pollution problems there and if we just relax that a little bit we'll we'll make progress and and save the environment at the same time we make money. The problem with that line of argument it is in so many cases in the past where we have had regulatory action to deal with clean air clean water problems and the fears that were raised by industry were just as severe as they are now. We've gone ahead taken the regulatory action and low and behold the economy survived we banned DDT we got let out a gasoline. We took air pollution way way down we've got a long way to go and in every instance
industry predicted this would be the end of the world the sky would be falling economically it just doesn't happen. The American economy and American ingenuity is very dynamic but to hear industry tell it and sometimes to hear the White House tell it you'd think they've we volunteered to deal with all these air and water pollution problems and that regulations are really just encumbering but to be honest if we continue the track we're on now which is rolling backwards we're weakening environmental standards we're loosening. Is that right? Is that happening across the board? Across the board it's really been astonishing in this administration not so much in the Congress it's mainly been administrative action. We have seen rollbacks changes to laws affecting wetlands obviously energy production has been put way ahead of environmental controls clean air clean water endangered species forest protection everywhere you look really we've had significant rollbacks and environmental protection just in the past few years you can't always see the effects yet but we'll be seeing those soon enough
and the problem of course is when it's across so many issues where do you where do you take them on? When it comes to how Washington operates the industry's power is almost as strong among Democrats as it is among Republicans isn't it? Yeah it's very hard for the Democratic Party and they've not moved forward hard on the issue of regulating the chemical industry too many Democrats are beholden they come from states that have big chemical industries they get big campaign contributions from the chemical industry over time we've really seen Democrats avoiding this topic they'll take on one chemical at a time if there's a major dramatic exposure or accident or a problem in a water supply but they have been very reluctant to go at those root causes take on the lack of testing take on the fact that so much of our chemical industry is an effect self-regulated when it comes to exposing us to these toxic chemicals no the Democrats are not there yet for us by any stretch and self-regulation is not doing the job? Self-regulation shockingly enough is not doing the job didn't do the job at Enron it's not doing the job when it
comes to toxic chemicals or automobile safety or anything else if people listening want to know more about the body burden want to know more about the environmental working group what what can they do? well they can come to our website www.ewg.org if they want to find out more about the body burden study that was just released by the Centers for Disease Control fascinating work they can go to the website for the Centers for Disease Control just google it and you'll find it that's a great deal of information about toxic chemicals and the whole American population is six million dollar study Ken Cook the Environmental Working Group thank you very much for joining us on now an email circulated in cyberspace last weekend it's author said simply it's time for a break so we're ending tonight with a small space of our own for a decade or more we've made poetry part of our journalistic beat
and have filmed often at the Dodge Poetry Festival in New Jersey one of our favorite poets there is Coleman Barks who is also widely known for his translations of the great 13th century Islamic poet and teacher Jalaluddin Rumi Rumi was born in what is now Afghanistan in the year 1207 but his family moved on in the face of the Mongol invasion moved to Baghdad then Damascus and finally to a crossroads on the Silk Road there as a Sufi Muslim he was influenced by both Christian and Jewish thought it was a violent time with the crusades raking back and forth across his land but Rumi's sense of the sacred remained inclusive gentle and true to the longing of the human heart not only as Rumi's work heard on radio throughout the Arab world he's a best-selling poet here in America here now Coleman Barks with the Paul winner consort and three poems from Rumi out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field I'll meet you there out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field I'll meet you there when the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about ideas language even the phrase each other doesn't make any sense who makes these changes I shoot an arrow right
it lands left I ride after a deer and find myself chased by a hog I plot to get what I want and end up in prison I dig pits to trap others and fall in I should be suspicious of what I want
today like every other day we wake up empty and frightened don't open the door to the study and begin reading take down a musical interlude let the beauty we love be what we do the mind cannot understand Rumi's portrait neither can desire mind and desire are not enough
there's something else some other way of knowing some deeper part of our being that knows we're not in grief that knows we're in eternity that sings out of that that's the mystery I think they cannot be said let the beauty we love be what we do there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground Coleman barks the pole when a consort and the poems of Rumi
that's it for now I'm Bill Moyers good night now with Bill Moyers continues at PBS Online learn more about the people and issues from tonight show and join the online discussion at PBS.org to wonder this episode of now with Bill Moyers on video cassette call PBS Home Video at 1-800-PLAY-PBS for now has been provided by our sole corporate funder
for over 50 years we've put retirement and pension products to work for those in the public service now we're doing the same for the rest of America mutual of America for all of America the spirit of America and by the Colberg Foundation the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation the Nathan Cummings Foundation and by contributions to your PBS stations from viewers like you thank you this is PBS you
- NOW with Bill Moyers
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- Gun industry whistleblower
- Environmental toxins
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- NOW WITH BILL MOYERS: A weekly news magazine, reported in conjunction with NPR, includes documentary reporting, in-depth one-on-one interviews, and insightful commentary from a wide variety of media-makers and those behind the headlines.
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- For years, gun manufacturers have maintained that it's impossible to know how their guns get into the hands of criminals. But one former gun industry insider says major gun manufacturers are deliberately looking the other way while some dealers sell their guns to criminals. NOW profiles Robert Ricker, the first major whistleblower to emerge from inside the gun industry. Ricker not only contends the manufacturers didn't do anything to stop crime gun sales, but that they lied to the public about what they knew.
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- Also interviewed is Lawrence Keane, VP and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the leading trade association of the firearms and recreational shooting sports industry.
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- And many environmental toxins were banned in the 1970s. But do they still exist in our bodies? Bill Moyers interviews Kenneth A. Cook, president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a public interest research and advocacy organization, about the alarming traces of numerous pollutants found in our bodies and what is or isn't being done to protect us.
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- Bill Moyers reflects on the power of the poet Rumi.
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- Credits: Director: Mark Ganguzza; Line Producer: Scott Davis; Studio Coordinator: Irene Francis; Interview Development: Ana Cohen Bickford, Gina Kim; Editorial Producer: Rebecca Wharton, Megan Cogswell; Producers: Bryan Myers, Greg Henry, Keith Brown, William Brangham, Gail Ablow, Brenda Breslauer, Peter Meryash, Betsy Rate; Writers: Bill Moyers, Michael Winship, David Brancaccio, Judy Stoeven Davies; Editors: Larry Goldfine, Vincent Liota, Lewis Erskine, Alison Amron, Amanda Zinoman, Kathi Black; Production Manager: Ria Gazdar, Jennifer Latham; Associate Producers: Carol Atencio, Karla Murthy, Betsy Rate, Cyndee Readean, Laurie Wainberg, Candice Waldron, Na Eng; Production Associates: Kate Amick, Ismael Gonzalez, Renata Huang, Dan Logan, Mariama Nance, Avni Patel, Rachel Webster, Rasheea Williams, Mao Yao, Moss Levenson; Interns: Kristin Burns, Stacy Delo, DongWon Song, Reed Penney, Lisa Kalikow, Joshua Wolterman, Anna Melin, Ceridwen Dovey; Creative Director: Dale Robbins; Graphics Producer: Abbe Daniel; Graphics: Chris Degnen, Liz Deluna, Gregory Kennedy; Music: Douglas J. Cuomo; Senior Supervising Producer: Sally Roy; Executives in Charge: Judy Doctoroff O’Neill; Executive Editors: Bill Moyers, Judith Davidson Moyers; Senior Producers: Tom Casciato, Ty West; Executive Producer: Felice Firestone; Sr. Executive Producer: John Siceloff; Correspondents: David Brancaccio, Deborah Amos, Daniel Zwerdling, Rick Karr, Michele Mitchell
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- Additional credits: Producers: Kathleen Hughes, Andrea Davis, Sherry Jones, Bob Abeshouse, Katie Pitra, Peter Bull, Dan Klein; Writers: Sherry Jones, Peter Bull, Kathleen Hughes; Associate Producers: Hoda Osman, Matilda Bode, Stefanie Hirsch, Samantha Fingleton; Editors: Kendrick Simmons. Lisa Shreve, Andrew Fredericks, Rob Kuhns, Kathi Black, Vanessa V. Procopio, Molly Bernstein, Rob Forlenza, Jeremy Cohen, Alex Yalakidis, Win Rosenfeld, Dan Davis; Correspondents: Rick Davis, Jane Wallace, Roberta Baskin
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