New episodes come out every Tuesday for free, with 1-week early access for Wondery+ subscribers.
Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.
Tue, 09 Aug 2022 07:01
While we used many sources in creating this season, key elements of the story were drawn from the book Exposure by Robert Bilott. We highly recommend it. You can buy the book here:
Lindsay chats with Robert Bilott, the attorney who took on DuPont, and the author of the book "Exposure." The two discuss the dangerous chemicals that have found their way into consumer products. And they look at the steps the government is taking to protect our health.
Listen to new episodes 1 week early and to all episodes ad free with Wondery+. Join Wondery+ for exclusives, binges, early access, and ad free listening. Available in the Wondery App https://wondery.app.link/americanscandal.
Support us by supporting our sponsors!
From Wondry, I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American Scandal. In the mid-1990s, a cattle farmer named Earl Tennant began to sound the alarm about water pollution on his property. Tennant lived in rural West Virginia and he believed the chemical company Dupont was poisoning a creek that ran through his farm. Tennant enlisted the help of an attorney named Robert Ballot. And as Ballot dug into the case, he discovered that the problem was much larger than a single creek on a single farm. Dupont had been polluting the water of an entire community and while the chemical company seemed aware of the potential for serious harm, it had also worked to cover up its tracks. Ballot would go on to challenge Dupont in a class action lawsuit. It was a long and bruising fight, but in the end, the attorney secured a major victory for residents, forcing Dupont to pay for its mistakes and clean up the community's water. But while residents earned a major victory in court, the story didn't end there. The fight against Dupont helped spur a larger national conversation about the chemicals and consumer products and the significant threats they posed to people's health. It's an issue that's still top of mind for my guest, Robert Ballot. Today, Ballot still practices law at his firm Taft Statenius in Hollister in its Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky offices. But he's also gone on to write the acclaimed book Exposure, which tells the story about his fight against Dupont. At same story, formed the basis of the recent Hollywood film adaptation, Dark Waters, starring Mark Ruffalo as Robert Ballot. As an advocate, Ballot also has given talks across the world about the dangers of pollutants known as forever chemicals. We'll look at what researchers know about these ubiquitous pollutants and their ability to harm our health. We'll also discuss the steps governments are taking to clean up our water and protect us from these most dangerous chemicals. Our conversation is next. American scandal is sponsored by the new audiobook Killing the Legends, the 12th audiobook and the multi-million-selling killing series from Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Muhammad Ali, three icons known everywhere in every nation across every culture. They had everything, fame, money, the admiration of millions, but their lives spun out of control at the hands of those they most trusted. Killing the Legends explores the lives, legacies, and tragic deaths of these three legends. Each experienced a men's success, then failures that forced them to change. Each faced a challenge of growing old and fields that privileged youth. And finally, each became isolated, cocooned by wealth but vulnerable to the demands of those in their innermost circles. Killing the Legends is available now wherever audiobooks are sold. Start listening. You've already earned some fun, so have it. It's like giving yourself permission to eat dessert first. With best fiends and exciting puzzle adventure game, you can have fiendish fun anywhere anytime. How often do you let yourself have some hard earned fun? Whatever your answer is, you deserve way more. Add some joy to your daily routine with best fiends. The puzzle adventure game you won't be able to put down. Brand new events and challenges pop up all year round. So you've always got a chance to earn exclusive in-game items, characters, and rewards. You've earned your fun time, go to the App Store or Google Play to download best fiends for free. Plus, earn even more with $5 worth of in-game rewards when you reach level 5. That's friends without the R. Best Fiends. Rob Ballot. Welcome to American's Ganyl. Thanks so much for having me. So this is the last episode in our series about your fight against DuPont. In it, we looked at how the company had been contaminating people's drinking waters with a chemical called PFOA. But we ended our story where it ceased seven years ago. And we only focused on a relatively small group of communities in West Virginia and Ohio. So I'm wondering since then, how many other communities do you think have found themselves dealing with the same kind of problem? You know, unfortunately, what we've seen just the last couple of years is this is really a global issue. This chemical PFOA and related family of chemicals are being found in drinking water all over the United States, all over the world, in pretty much anywhere you're testing and looking for it. We're finding it, unfortunately, not only in the drinking water, but in the soil, the air, wildlife, and most importantly, in people, almost everywhere across the planet. Well, where you've discovered these chemicals first, it led to a series of lawsuits. I imagine then the courts are packed with lawsuits. You know, unfortunately, that's what we've seen. As more and more people have discovered these chemicals in their drinking water or their soil or in their blood, there's been a huge number of new lawsuits that have been filed, particularly trying to make sure that the companies that did this, that put these chemicals out into the world. Knowing this would happen, knowing that they would get into the air, to the water, to the soil, that they would stay there virtually forever, and that they would get into us, yet did it anyway. All these lawsuits now by communities that are impacted, by states that have contaminated wildlife and fish and natural resources by water providers, trying to make sure that the cost of cleaning this up isn't born. It isn't born by all of us, the innocent victims of all of this, that the people who did this should be the ones who were held responsible. So you've got litigation now all over the country, and now, frankly, all over the world, trying to make sure that these companies that did it are held responsible. Well, let's discuss some of the specific concerns about these chemicals and how they affect people's health. When we were telling your story, we mentioned findings from a scientific panel that emerged from your litigation, and that panel found that PFOA could cause some serious issues like several cancers and thyroid disease. What else might we have learned about how these chemicals affect our health? Yeah, there's been an incredible wealth of information that's come out since then. As you mentioned, we had an independent scientific panel that did an incredible series of studies and analyses that ended back in 2012. And at that point, that panel was able to link this one chemical PFOA with at least six different diseases, including two types of cancer, as you mentioned. But since 2012, there's been an incredible amount of research worldwide, and unfortunately, as scientists look more into this chemical and this related family of chemicals, they're finding more and more impacts to human health, and they're finding it occurring at lower and lower exposure levels. And some of the most concerning new data is showing these chemicals having the ability to impair our immune systems, which can lead to a whole constellation of effects later in life. And somewhat most disturbingly, the potential that these chemicals can actually inhibit the effectiveness of vaccines. You know, here during a worldwide pandemic, chemicals that are in our drinking water, in products, in our environment, in our blood, virtually all across the planet that can have that kind of impact on our immune system, or possibly even the vaccine. So it's really raised red flags and the alert across the worldwide scientific community. And so, we've mentioned several vectors of exposure there, water, products, air. So it sounds like contaminating water is not the only issue. You know, most of the focus to date has been on trying to make sure we at least get it out of the water. You know, that's one of the most primary direct routes to getting exposure, is if these chemicals are actually in your drinking water. And unfortunately, it's in a lot of folks drinking water. And chemicals can also be in consumer products that we're exposed to. They can be in the environment. They can be in the air. So unfortunately, you're dealing with chemicals that have managed to permeate our natural world. So if drinking water is the number one concern, how are these chemicals getting into the drinking water? They're really moving through our environment in a huge number of ways in getting into the water. And you know, there's the most obvious direct way is outside manufacturing plants that use these chemicals in massive quantities. And the most obvious example is the DuPont plant in West Virginia, where they used the chemical and it was discharged into the air or got into the Ohio River or just put into unlined landfills. Because these chemicals can move through the air, where they then fall in the rain and actually then get into the soil, percolate down into the ground water table and end up contaminating drinking water sources that rely on that groundwater. Or if they're discharged into rivers or streams, you know, drinking water supplies can pull that in to their wells. Or from the underground disposal, you know, they can seep through the ground, particularly since they haven't been regulated in the past. So a lot of this went to unlined, unregulated landfills where they seeped into the ground. But in addition to these obvious direct manufacturing sites, you know, these chemicals have been used in so many different consumer products over the years that they've managed to find their way into, again, landfills all over the country. Where they may be seeping down into the ground or they have been used in consumer products and these things end up in the wastewater that makes its way to the wastewater utility. That then is maybe generating a biosolid sludge that historically has been given away to farmers who then spread it on their fields as fertilizer. And then this stuff gets down into the ground or can contaminate the drinking water that way. But one of the most important sources of these chemicals getting into drinking water that's been discovered more recently is the C8's, PFOA and PFOS, historically were used in a particular type of firefighting foam called A-Triple F, aqueous film forming foam, the type of foam you use for battling petroleum-based fires. And so that stuff was put into foam that was sold to people and these people were told to spray it out into the environment. And they weren't warned that these PFOS chemicals were in the foam or that these chemicals were dangerous or shouldn't be spread out into the world. So these chemicals were sprayed out outside of training facilities, fires all over the country, airports, fire stations, if there was a car accident, you know, you're in this foam was used for decades. And unfortunately when it's sprayed out into the environment, seeps into the ground has managed to get into drinking water sources. So you've just got multiple ways that these materials can get into surface water that's pulled into drinking water supplies or into the groundwater that's then used by drinking water supplies all over the country. Well, I guess if we could put a number on how difficult it is to be not exposed, what percentage of Americans do you think have been? Well, you know, at this point there has actually been testing of human blood that's been going on for years now looking for these chemicals and not only in the United States but worldwide. And that data has shown that at least with this chemical we've been focused on PFOA and the related chemical called PFOS, ones that have eight carbons, they're also called C8s. That those chemicals are being found in over 90 percent, sometimes as high as 99 percent of the human population that's being studied. And this isn't just in industrialized countries or people that are living next to these plants where this stuff is made or it's gotten into the water. This is across the globe, people who aren't being exposed to some manufacturing plant and these chemicals not only are they in being found in human blood, they tend to stay in the blood and be passed on from mother to child such that babies are being born now pre-polluted with these chemicals right out of right out of the womb, right at birth. You gave a couple of different names for a couple of different chemicals, so I just want to stop and get some clarity on this. So PFOA as DuPont knows it's C8 is a type of PFAS. Could you just give us a primer on these chemicals? Yeah, this can be incredibly confusing, particularly for the public and consumers trying to figure out what they're being exposed to and what these different chemical names are. There's a family of completely man-made chemicals. These are chemicals that never existed on the planet prior to their invention by man and right around the time of World War II. There are hundreds, if not thousands of chemicals in this particular family called PFAS, PFAS. And that stands for PER and Polly Floro Alcalated Substances. And that's a mouthful. You may hear them all referred to now as forever chemicals because this family of chemicals all has one very important common characteristic. They've got a chemical structure of carbons attached to fluorine. And this is something that just doesn't exist in nature. So these are all man-made. And again, there's hundreds, if not thousands of those. And the one that we focused on in our litigation against DuPont out in West Virginia, and that really there's probably the most known about to date is one of these chemicals, one that has an eight carbon structure called C8. And that's PFOA. And that's, you know, it gets confusing because that's very similar to PFAS. But PFOA is just one of these PFAS chemicals. And there's a very closely related chemical that also has eight carbons in this PFAS family called PFOS. Both PFOA and PFOS, they're both C8s. They're both in the PFAS family. And they both were basically created by 3M. PFOA was used primarily by DuPont in making things like Teflon. And PFOS was used primarily by 3M in making things like Scotchguard and firefighting foam. So it's really a confusing acronym soup. But all of these now are part of this family of chemicals called forever chemicals. And they're called forever chemicals because they don't break down. What's problematic about that? That's one of their most disturbing characteristics. Is this unique chemical structure, this man-made structure of attaching carbons to flooring? Apparently makes that really strong chemical backbone. In other words, it's very difficult for that to break apart. So if it gets out into the natural world, it essentially never biodegrades. So if it was just out there by itself, sitting in the soil, sitting in the water, it would take thousands, if not millions of years, for those chemicals to begin breaking down on their own. So in other words, they basically never do. So that's why there's a real concern that once they get out there, they stay there. And so even though the C8s, the manufacturer has finally been phased out in the United States, all of that that was emitted the last 70, 80 years is still there. It's still out in the soil, in the water, in the animals and the plants, and all of us. Because once it gets into the environment, it stays there. But also these C8s have the ability that once they get into living things, our bodies really don't know how to break them down. Our bodies really don't know how to get rid of them. So they tend to stick and stay in us too. They stick and they get into our blood, and they circulate throughout our body. They stay there and they build up over time. So that describes the problem. Of course, it's no help that these are biotoxic to us. Do you know the medical mechanisms in which they harm our bodies? You know, that's something that scientists have been struggling with now for many years. They're now trying to understand how is it that these chemicals behave in the human body? Why do they stay there? Why do they build up? And I think that's still a matter of great scientific investigation. But what we do know is this ability to stay in our bodies and build up over time. But unfortunately, it allows them to be there kind of like a ticking time bomb. The more they're in the body, the more they're circulating throughout in our blood, coding all of our organs, the more opportunity for harm. So when the scientists that are looking at this, what you see happening is the acceptable levels of exposure for these chemicals keep going lower and lower. Because as scientists study these, they find out that the possible effects from these chemicals being in our body for that long, the potential impact there is such that you really don't want any exposure to these. So seeing those acceptable exposure levels go lower and lower and lower. Let's talk about what we call the hidden jewel of streaming. Magellan TV is all about real life stories from newly discovered diaries of soldiers on D-Day to decisive battles that shaped the Roman Empire to life and death struggles on the plains of Africa. So the TV was founded by documentary filmmakers. They know that real life stories with real emotions and dramas of real people are incredibly entertaining. Run out of shows to watch on Netflix, you'll never run out on Magellan TV. You get access to a super rich collection of history, science, space, and true crime documentaries with more than 20 hours of new content added each week. Magellan TV is truly one of the best values for your money in the entire streaming universe. Plus you get ultra high definition 4K at no extra cost and you will never see an advertisement. So go to MagellanTV.com and check it out. Use the promo code podcast to get a limited time 30% off on your annual membership. American scandal is sponsored by the Free-To-Dialogue Mobile Game Junes Journey. Who's responsible for this? At the heart of every mystery is that question. Who did it? Who fired the gun? Who poisoned the drink? Who wielded the knife? Only after you answer the question, who done it? Can you ask why? If you love classic murder mysteries as much as I do and want to test your powers of conservation, grab your Fedora and trench coat, pick up your phone, and download the Hidden Object Game Junes Journey. This Free-To-Dialogue Mobile Game puts your perception and awareness to the test, not to mention your memory and logic skills. Certainly keeps me on my toes as I search for hidden objects and collect clues to solve the mystery. Unlocking new chapters of the story, each time getting closer to the truth, join 30 million fans who have found their inter detectives with Junes Journey. And endless hours of fun with thousands of intricate scenes and new chapters every week. There's a detective in all of us. Find yours. Download Junes Journey today, available on Android and iOS mobile devices, as well as on PC through Facebook games. American scandal is sponsored by Babel. For most of us, learning a second language in high school or college wasn't a high point. I took German because I hated my earlier Spanish and Latin classes. I thought German might be different. I mean, it was, but I still did poorly. I don't think the problem was the languages themselves. It might have been how they were taught. Now, there's Babel. The language learning app that sold more than 10 million subscriptions. It's a fun and easy way to learn a new language so you can travel or broad. Connect deeper with family or just enjoy learning a language to use in the real world. And its bite-sized lessons allow me to try German again without resorting to Kummer Speck. Look that one up. Learn on the go with 15 minute lessons designed by language experts, not some AI like other language learning apps. Choose from 14 different languages, including Spanish, French, Italian, and of course German and learn with confidence because Babel comes with a 20-day money back guarantee. Start your new language learning journey today with Babel. Right now, save up to 60% off your subscription when you go to Babel.com slash AS. That's Babel.com slash AS for up to 60% off your subscription. Babel, language for life. You mentioned that a few of the C8s are no longer manufactured, but there are hundreds if not thousands of other variants of these chemicals. Are they still being manufactured and put into products? Unfortunately, that's the case. As the story finally came out in the last couple of years and as information finally made its way to scientists and regulators about the harms from two of these, the ones we've been talking about, PFOA and PFOS, the ones with 8 carbons. The companies that were making those finally decided to stop making them in the United States. So we saw the gradual phase out of PFOA and PFOS in the US. And in fact, by 2015, the manufacturers had represented that they were no longer making those C8s in the US. Unfortunately, some of that continued overseas. And as those C8s were phased out, what we saw the companies do was simply knock a couple of carbons off or add a couple of carbons. So instead of making C8s, they started making C4s, C6s, or maybe C9s and C10s. And those additional chemicals started being put into some of these same products that used to use the C8s. So we saw an incredible growth in the number of these new additional PFOS chemicals making their way out into products into the world. And unfortunately, what we've seen over the last several years, those new chemicals also have started now to get into our drinking water, our environment. And so there's now a growing concern about the possibility that we need to be looking maybe at this whole family of chemicals. Because if we keep focusing on just one at a time, we could have this never ending process of what we call regrettable substitutions. Because we finally get to the point of knowing enough about the C8s to phase them out and to start regulating the C8s, we simply have the companies tweak it a bit, call it something new, and we're told to start all over again. So there's a concern that maybe there's a new approach needed. Maybe we need to be taking what we know about some of these chemicals in applying it to that whole family and regulating them as a class. And we've seen things like that done with other chemicals like dioxins or PCBs in the past. So this is a family of chemicals that is a bit frightening ubiquitous and we're finding out increasingly dangerous to humans and other life, but they're still being manufactured. Let's just quickly put on the table. Why? What are their uses? These chemicals, they were invented and created and they've been widely used for 70 years because they're incredibly useful and they've got incredible capabilities for manufactured products. And they've been used in things like stain resistant waterproof materials, grease proof, fast food wrappers, and packaging for making computer chips, for dental floss, for the firefighting thomes, just an incredible array of different products. And sometimes these chemicals aren't necessarily even used as ingredients in making those products, but they're used in just to help the manufacturing process, you know, to help things slide along, so to speak, in the manufacturing process. And these chemicals then end up as contaminants in the final product. So they've got an incredible array of uses. And we're seeing that as legislation and efforts begin across the country and frankly across the world to begin regulating these chemicals. What you end up seeing is you're seeing the manufacturers point out how many different products these chemicals are used in, how many sectors of the economy are using and relying upon these chemicals. So it really emphasizes the scope and scale of the problem that we're dealing with here. Well, that's a great segue to it to my next line of questioning because it addresses the scope and scale. How do we remedy the situation? These are common useful chemicals and probably the economic impact is huge if they were to be banned outright. But the science is catching up and there will be public pressure that eventually forces government to take action. Certainly we've seen that with other chemicals like as bestos or lead based gasoline. What are the next steps that government agencies are doing now to protect us from these new class of forever chemicals. Exactly. As we've seen the story finally come out, you know, as the story that we're talking about here finally makes its way to the public through things like, you know, the movie Dark Waters or the documentary that we know or the book exposure or in stories like what we're talking about here. People finally hear this and finally start to understand what's happening. What we've seen just the last several years is an incredible outcry from the public, from consumers expressing concern about why are we being exposed to these? How do we get more information about where they're used? How do we make sure that we're not being exposed to unsafe levels of these? How do we control future manufacturers? So we've seen that getting the story out and people talking about this has led to legislators, politicians, regulators really starting to take action to address these chemicals. We're seeing laws, rules, regulations being proposed for the first time. You know, when it's taken a long time to get here, it's taken over 20 years for this story to make its way out. But now that it has what we've seen, I think what you see with this story is the incredible power of a story, you know, the ability for once this information's out there and people start to understand what's happening. That people can stand up thin and say, we want this changed and it can happen. And we're seeing it happen now. We're seeing laws, rules, and regulations. And in fact, we had the US EPA just a few weeks ago come out and announce new drinking water guidelines for these C-8 chemicals that we've been talking about, PFOA and PFOS. In those new guidelines are dramatically lower than they had been just a couple of years ago. So low that essentially if you now detect either of these chemicals in the water, it's above the levels of concern to the US EPA. So it's a pretty loud message that has finally made its way through to the regulatory agency who's now reacting to it. And we're now seeing all kinds of laws being proposed to try to make sure that we restrict these chemicals. We're seeing states move forward and actually adopt bans on the use of these chemicals in certain types of products like fast food wrappers or firefighting phones or children's clothing. And those efforts are moving forward and the more people that find out about it, the more comprehensive we're seeing these efforts going. The regulation as we all know is a slow and imperfect process that it takes far too much time and it leaves too many loopholes. What do you think real meaningful action on a governmental level would look like? Well, I think we're seeing that begin to happen here with things that have been long overdue, such as having the government set effective and meaningful restrictions on how much of this chemical should we be exposed to. And we're looking at the example in our drinking water. We're finally seeing rules and standards come out to restrict any exposures and to require action to be taken to get it out of our water and to make sure that we're not exposed to these things. Not only though do we need to address the fact of these ongoing exposures, but we need to have laws that are effective in making sure the right people are held responsible. We're continuing to be forced into court. Like in this story we've been talking about in West Virginia, you know, involving DuPont. The only way those folks were able to get clean water, to get compensated for the egregious injuries, including cancers and death from exposure to these chemicals, frankly, was to go into the court system and have to fight it out in court for years and years. So, you know, there's efforts underway to try to make sure that our legal system is also reformed in a way that allows people to get clean water, to get protected from these chemicals, to get compensated when they've been made sick or injured without having to spend the rest of their life fighting about it in court. It sounds like you're recommending something beyond the current scope of just the EPA and an executive branch. Are you recommending that Congress make new law? Yeah, I think we're seeing that happen right now. We are seeing a discussion in the U.S. Congress about how do we do this? How best do we address the presence of these man-made chemicals saturating our natural world? And how do we make sure that the costs of that are properly borne by the responsible parties? And we're seeing efforts underway to try to designate, finally, some of these chemicals as regulated under the federal laws to give people more tools and abilities to hold the proper parties responsible. We're seeing efforts to make sure that the funds are available to deal with this. But again, the taxpayers, all of us, shouldn't be having to pay to clean this up when we know who caused the problem. So, that's going to be a continuing fight, I think, not only at the federal level, at the U.S. Congress, but in every statehouse across the country and internationally as well. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together. And we'd love for you to join us. Generation Y is one of the longest-running true crime podcasts out there, and we are still at it, unraveling a new case every week. We break down infamous cases like the Evil Genius Bank robbery, and lesser known cases like the case of Kimberly Rico, did she actually kill her husband after they took part in a murder mystery game? We cover every angle, breaking down theories, diving deep into forensic evidence, and interviewing those close to the case. And with over 450 episodes, there's a little something for every true crime listener. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music, or every listen to podcasts, or you can listen ad-free by joining Wundri Plus in the Wundri app. If you'll allow me to be naive for a moment, let's pretend that I am a chemist and I discover a new chemical. By now, we have plenty of evidence suggesting that I should probably be careful before I go into large-scale industrial production of this chemical, or any use of it in any product. It seems like we should be testing chemicals from the onset of their discovery. Why is that not the case? Well, I think what you have with the situation in PFAS is you had some of these chemicals, particularly the C8s, that were invented before our laws and rules and regulations even existed on how to deal with chemicals in the environment. Remember, these were invented right around the time of World War II. They start being put into massive consumer use in the 50s and 60s. The US EPA doesn't even come into existence until 1970. The first federal laws regulating how you go about testing the safety of chemicals getting into the environment don't come out to the late 70s. When they do, they really focused on new chemicals, new ones from that point forward, and really left it up to the companies that were making chemicals that were already out there. It was up to those companies to alert the EPA if there was some existing chemical that the EPA ought to go back and look at. What we had happened here is a situation where the company simply didn't tell the agency about what they knew. Nobody ever went back and looked at these. It wasn't until the litigation began by Mr. Tenet in West Virginia in 1999 that we even found out that this information existed. But with these new ones, the new PFAS that have started to come out since these laws have been in place. We do have a legal system that's supposed to require information up front before these chemicals come out into the world. Unfortunately, you've got an agency that's got underfunded and massively overworked all these chemicals. It's difficult to actually get the kind of review done that needs to be done before these chemicals go out into the world. As a quick legal aside, and I actually am glad you're here, the perfect person to ask, in terms of the legal culpability of DuPond, how important was it that they knew this chemical was dangerous? If they were unaware, would that have changed the case? It likely would have. In fact, one of the arguments they were trying to make from day one is that they didn't know that there was harm. But unfortunately, what we discovered was through their own scientists, their own documents, and the information they had, they were well aware. They fully understood the risk and the scope of the harm here. In fact, when this story was laid out in front of juries, when we finally were able to go to trial and lay the story out in front of a jury and show what the company actually knew, we had juries that came back and held the company liable for punitive damages. After finding that based on what was shown in those documents in that information, the company acted with conscious disregard of the risk here. So pretty egregious facts in this case. Anyone who reads your book or sees the movie or listens to this series will know that this is not just a story of chemicals and corporate malfeasance, but it's a very personal story to for you. You were certainly not a national figure, just a lawyer doing her job who took on an unconventional client. How did this case change you, do you think? It really opened my eyes to really seeing a whole different perspective on how our legal system works, how our regulatory system works, how the whole system for generating and publishing science works. Those are some of the things I tried to explore in the book, exposure was how these different systems interacted to create what kind of became the perfect storm here that led to global contamination of the environment and people on an unprecedented unheard of scale. It was really mind opening for me. I started my career learning what I thought was our existing system for regulating hazardous chemicals. I thought it was incredibly complex and comprehensive. You had agencies that were charged with identifying hazardous toxic materials and there were lists. And as long as you were doing what you needed to do to make sure you weren't releasing more than the amounts, the agencies that told you were safe for these chemicals, you were doing what was necessary to protect the environment. And that there was something toxic or hazardous in the world. It was on these lists. But through this story, what we learned with PFOA was there's this entire world of chemicals that may be incredibly toxic, incredibly persistent bioaccumulative, carcinogenic that go have completely escaped that system that never made its way onto any of these lists. In fact, the agencies may have not even known they existed. Yet these chemicals can present incredible risk to health in the environment. And when they fall outside the scope of that system, it creates all kinds of hurdles for those of us who are exposed because there's incredible hurdles then placed in the way of the exposed people if they try to address it. The legal system puts the burden on the exposed person to prove the harmfulness of these chemicals. And it's difficult to get the access to science when the information is controlled by the companies who are choosing not to present that information. So it really changed my entire perception of the way in which we handle and address exposure to toxic and hazardous materials in this country. For many people, myself certainly included environmental issues like these seem overwhelming and impossible to solve on an individual basis. It's just a condition of the universe imposed on me and I can't do anything about it. But I wonder if is that the case for people who are concerned about these things and why shouldn't they be? What can they do to try and affect some bigger change? I think if anything, what this story shows is how incredibly powerful, just one person standing up and speaking out and seeking change can be, what it can lead to. And I think that's really the power of this story. You look back at the fact that here you have Mr. Tennant in a small farm in West Virginia in a small town in the United States that said, there's something wrong here. And this is not the way it should be. And didn't take no for an answer and didn't care that he was up against some of the biggest most powerful forces in our society. Not only one of the world's biggest companies, huge corporation with unlimited resources, but also the US legal system, the regulatory system, you know, at the state level, at the federal level, the scientific system, how the way papers and science were generated. Yet, nevertheless, by that individual coming forward, speaking out, which, you know, led to then others in that community, people like Joe Kiger and his wife or others in the middle of Iowa, who stood beside him and said, we agree this needs to change. It can happen. And that's, I think, the power of what you see in this story and what we really tried to show in the book and exposure, you know, was the different people that were impacted workers at the plant, people in the community there, that those people telling their stories. It did generate huge change. And we're seeing that right now. We are seeing changes being proposed to federal regulations, federal laws, international laws and treaties, state laws, the legal system, the scientific world is changing because of what these individuals did. And we're seeing that now play out across the world as individual consumers are learning about this and banding together and saying, for example, hey, we don't want these products, we don't want these chemicals in these products that we're purchasing anymore. And they're coming together and making their voices heard to big companies, fast food manufacturers, carpeting retailers, firefighting phone manufacturers, cosmetics retailers, and those companies, even before the laws and regulations are changed are coming out and now voluntarily changing their products, switching away from these chemicals. So we're seeing the actual world of these products change before our eyes because of what these people and individuals are able to do by speaking out. So I think this story is really, is a great testament to the power of individuals being able to change the world. Rob Ballot, thank you so much for coming on American Scandal. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. That was my conversation with Robert Ballot, the author of Exposure and a partner at the law firm, Taff Statenius and Hollister. From Wondry, this is episode four of the DuPont Chemical Coverup from American Scandal. In our next series, we look at the story of Edward Snowden, a whistleblower who changed the national conversation about privacy on the Internet. As a contractor for the NSA, Snowden had access to a range of top secret government programs, but in his work, Snowden would learn a devastating secret, a government was conducting mass surveillance of its own citizens. Snowden would go on to leak more classified documents than any whistleblower in American history, but in his fight to expose the truth, he would risk his own freedom and his family's well-being. If you like our show, please give us a five star rating and leave a review and be sure to tell your friends. I also have two other podcasts you might like, American History Tellers and Business Movers. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music or wherever you're listening right now, or you can listen to new episodes early and add free by subscribing to Wondry Plus in Apple Podcasts or in the Wondry app. You'll also find some links and offers from our sponsors in the episode notes. Supporting them helps us keep offering our shows for free. Another way you can support the show is by filling out a small survey at Wondry.com slash survey to tell us what topics we might come next. You can also find us and me on Twitter. Follow me at Lindsay A Graham, Lindsay with an A, Middle Initially, and thank you. While we use many sources in creating this season, key elements of the story were drawn from the book Exposure by today's guest Robert Belon. We highly recommend it. American Scandal is hosted, edited and executed produced by me, Lindsay Graham for airship, audio editing by Molly Bond, music by Lindsay Graham. Our senior producer is Gabe Riven. Our second producer is Stephanie Gens, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and Marsha Louis for Wondry. Hello, I'm Florence Given, the best selling author of the book Women Don't Are You Pretty and Girlcrush, and this is my podcast exactly. Join me as I connect with fascinating guests from authors, cultural commentators, doctors, thought leaders to psychologist, celebrities and comedians. We're back to do it all again in season two with the likes of the holistic psychologist, Victoria Scorn, and Iona David to name a few. Season two of exactly podcast out now wherever you get your podcasts.