Problem

Suppression of information concerning environmental safety

Other Names:
Cover-up of unsafe buildings
Cover-up of unsafe industrial installations
Cover up of unsafe equipment
Cover-up of unsafe transportation systems
Suppression of information concerning health hazards
Non-disclosure of threats to public safety
Concealment of environmental health risks
Incidence:
In certain countries, such as the UK, information on the results of government safety tests on consumer products are not available to the public. Similarly information on the possible environmental hazards of toxic materials stored in a factory is not available to those living in the neighbourhood. Information on the results of safety tests on food additives or drugs is similarly classified. In 1993 a study indicated that the UK government had disguised the true level of automobile pollution by siting monitoring stations away from busy streets in direct contravention of the law. Actual results on such streets showed levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution in breach of the upper safety limits set by the EEC/EU.

Governments sometimes prefer not to inform public about air or water pollution levels and potential ecological disasters. In the UK in 1992, a register of contaminated land sites was delayed indefinitely amid fears by property developers that it might erode the value of sites and bring public demands for an expensive clean-up. In 1993 the German government was obliged to admit that officials had suppressed information on hundreds of cases of HIV-contaminated blood during the 1980s. The laboratory responsible had also exported blood to other European countries. Files kept secret for many years until 1994 revealed that the former Soviet Union systematically slaughtered a large part of the world's protected whale population.

DuPont in the United States was the inventor and largest manufacturer of CFCs. When it was discovered that CFCs were destroying the ozone layer, and for many years afterward, DuPont worked to delay and undermine efforts to phase out their use. DuPont's history shows well how within chemical companies emerging knowledge of potential risks is seen first and foremost as an impediment to profits, or even a harbinger of bankruptcy. The industry's approach is not geared to respect for human rights, but rather to what the company can get away with within the confines of government interventions.

Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
06.12.1999 – 00:00 CET
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