Gary Pittman and his co-workers were systematically exposed to toxic substances while working for Occidental Chemical Corporation's north Florida phosphoric acid plants and mines. "Phosphate - Fluorides - Toxic Torts" is a personal narrative by Pittman describing his seven-year battle with Occidental while suffering with chemical poisoning, and the obstacles he had to overcome in the pursuit of compensation. Occidental Chemical Corporation was no stranger to Toxic Tort litigation. They were the company named in the 1979 landmark case, “United States v. Occidental,” about the "Love Canal" public health disaster in the late 1970s. In 1995, the “Love Canal” case was still in the courts when Pittman, a co-worker, and attorney, Dorothy Clay Sims took on the mammoth Occidental machine with their legions of law firms. Did Pittman win? Yes and no. When you have your health, you can always make more money, but when you are poisoned and debilitated,... More > there's not enough money in the world to buy back your health.< Less
Gary Pittman gave up his life for his job. That wasn’t Gary’s plan when he started working at Occidental Chemical Corporation’s phosphate plants. He just wanted to make a decent living and provide for his family. Occidental offered the best pay and best benefits for a high school graduate. Gary was exposed to 100’s of toxic chemicals with only a hard hat and safety glasses for “protection.” So it’s no surprise that he and many of his co-workers developed debilitating chemical-induced diseases. Most workers were uneducated. Some could barely read and write, Gary says. They were no match for Occidental’s highly-paid corporate lawyers. But Gary refused to back down and pursued a personal injury lawsuit (toxic tort litigation) against Occidental with several co-workers. Gary paints a bleak picture of what’s inside the plants – the noise, the smell, the darkness, the boot-eating acids. It’s what you would imagine that Hell would look like, Gary says. Occidental may have protected... More > themselves legally. But ethically, it stinks as badly as the sulfuric acid stench permeating the plants. However, the one deadly chemical all employees were exposed to didn’t have a smell – fluoride – yes, the stuff they put on your teeth and into your drinking water in a failed effort to reduce tooth decay. Fluoride, in the form of fluorosilicates or silicon tetrafluoride, is a toxic contaminant of the phosphate rock. These fluorides must be removed to make safe fertilizer and animal feed products. Gary says, when researchers fed raw powdered fluoride-containing phosphate rock to farm animals, cows’ milk dried up and had high rates of calf stillbirths. Pigs quit eating and breeding. Chickens died almost instantly. And to avoid killing animals and plants surrounding the factory, fluorosilicates must be captured or scrubbed out of air emissions. This captured and contaminated waste product is sold unpurified to fluoridating communities. Gary writes, “When we had to clean the pollution scrubbers, most of us went home with acid burns and coughing up blood.” “Once inside those vessels and scrubbers, we had no respirators, and had to breathe that stale, moist acidic air all shift. Sometimes, workers would fall ill with flu-like symptoms, the older workers called it ‘chemical pneumonia,’” writes Gary. “I remember one time when they assigned me the task of cleaning the filter hood on the pollution scrubber. Powdery fluorosilicate dust was everywhere. As we were cleaning, the dust covered us. It was very hot - 100 to 120 degrees - and we were sweating profusely. When the fluorosilicate dust mixed with the perspiration, it formed acid on the skin and blistered us if we didn't wash it off in time. We were breathing those dusts, too. They didn't give us respirators,” Gary writes. The pollution scrubbers’ fluorosilicates contain heavy metals such as lead and mercury and radionuclides including radium-226, radon-222 and uranium-238. An autopsy of a man who died from several minutes exposure to concentrated fumes at a phosphate fertilizer plant revealed a coating of silica on his lungs. The cause of death, however, was fluorine poisoning, reports Gary. A dentist speaking at a San Diego City Council meeting, when asked where fluoridation chemicals comes from, answered “from a rock.” He wasn’t lying. He just didn’t tell the whole truth. Some fluoridation promoters soften fluorosilicates image by calling them “co-products” as if the phosphate fertilizer industry made the stuff on purpose. Whatever it’s called, fluorosilicates have never been safety tested in animals or humans. Yet, it's dumped as is into about 70% of US public drinking water supplies and given a stamp of approval by organized dentistry and its followers. Gary’s story reveals the horror of working in an industry that provides the chemicals of modern living and how poorly the workers were treated by their employer whose main concern was money. Most of us have no idea how we indirectly put lives in peril. Maybe Gary’s book will get people thinking about it – especially those who endorse, promote or legislate fluorosilicates into our public water supplies. Maybe the US phosphate fertilizer industry has improved worker conditions. But now, unbelievably, China, Mexico, Japan and Belgium are selling us their phosphate fertilizer waste fluorosilicates. China has a history of selling us products with unwanted and/or toxic ingredients. Chinese fluorosilicates have already clogged up water systems in the US. Organized dentistry, both inside government and out, and the officials they influence have a moral, ethical and maybe legal responsibility to know what toxins are in all fluoridation chemicals, where they come from and whose lives were endangered by handling them. They all need to read this book.< Less
I edited and did research for Pittman’s narrative account, “Phosphate - Fluorides - Toxic Torts,” which is about his seven year legal and personal battle with Occidental Chemical Corporation. I also wrote several articles about the case back in the late 1990’s. When I wrote the first articles, I knew they would have an impact, but I also knew the story was ongoing and needed resolution. When Pittman contacted me about helping him put the whole story down in a book, it was something I wanted to do for a long time – 13 years to be exact. I could have suggested that we use filler material to make it more like a novel, but Pittman’s concise any easy way of writing was more conversational and personal. After the first two chapters, you will feel like you’ve known Gary all your life, and he is sitting the room telling you about his experiences, There was no need for a lot of scientific jargon and explanations. There was no need to inject anything into narrative to make it any more... More > impactful. Unlike other books such as “A Civil Action” and the movie “Erin Brockovich,” Pittman’s book is a excellent documentation of a legal fight from beginning to end and overcoming insurmountable odds. It is the Individual’s account and not about a law firm or heroine fighting for the ‘poor defenseless victims.’ Pittman did all the research for the case on his own with the help of several co-workers. He was masterful in how he handled the situation even while suffering great physical pain and depression from the 21 years of workplace exposure to toxic substances. You will not regret reading Pittman’s account, and you will walk away seeing the corporate consciousness and how government agencies operate in a different light. You might even find the courage to speak out against these practices.< Less
A shocking and revealing tale, not of rumors, but facts that a great many folks appear to just turn their head and walk away from. I sincerely congratulate this gentleman who has brought to the surface the reality and horror of not only his suffering, but unselfishly is making an attempt to open our eyes to what is harboring in the midst of our own health and quality of life - right in our own back yard. Who is to stop them?
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