Drug cartels are banking on the fact that U.S. chemical companies face very few legal risks, Bloomberg Businessweek has reported. Taminco, one such chemical company, is said to have illegally sold enough monomethylamine (MMA) for Mexican narcos to make $3.2 billion worth of methamphetamine. Taminco only paid a fine of $1.3 million, which was one of the only prosecutions of its kind ever.
Back in 2015, there were numerous complaints about Taminco being the source of foul odors that tormented Florida residents from Pace to Pensacola. This odor irritated the residents’ eyes, nose, and throats, and although Taminco denied the source, a spokeswoman for Dwane Brumfield who was the site manager of Taminco’s Pace Operations said that an accidental release of methylamine had a “potent fishy odor.” However, it was noted that another chemical — 61.8 pounds of it released over an hour and 15 minutes — was trimethylamine, which was flashing and evaporated into the air. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for chemical plants to get away with polluting the environment.
Bloomberg Businessweek noted that Taminco pled guilty to illegally selling more than 22,000 gallons of MMA to two “shadowy Mexican companies” without doing any type of research on these companies. It was later discovered that one of the companies might have never even existed while the other was controlled by Taminco’s own Mexican sales rep. That sales rep was selling to himself before selling to anonymous buyers. In 2010, Taminco sold the two companies enough MMA to make almost 100,000 kilograms of meth, which is more than 11 times the total amount of the drug seized by U.S. law enforcement that year.
Taminco Isn’t The Only One
In another Bloomberg investigation, it was discovered that heroin’s hidden ingredient is a chemical made by U.S. companies. That chemical is acetic anhydride, which is a clear liquid with a vinegar-like smell and a key component in making heroin besides the sap drained from opium flowers. Although international drug laws list this as one of the most strictly controlled “precursor and essential chemicals” for the production of illegal narcotics, the acetic anhydride found in Sinaloa and seized by authorities was “bottled, branded, and sold in Mexico by a $12.3 billion publicly traded U.S. company,” Bloomberg Businessweek noted. That company is Avantor, Inc.
The article also pointed out that Avantor had a “remarkable line of business” selling acetic anhydride across Mexico in large containers that were ideal for making illegal narcotics yet small enough to load into the trunk of a car. The sales were managed through a network of distributors, online sellers, and stores spread all across the country.
Chemical Companies Get Away With A Lot
Chemical companies create a vast amount of things that we use daily, ranging from medicines to everyday items such as hair spray or gel, to makeup, to some of the unhealthier foods. However, as the first article noted, they have very few legal risks and often get pretty lucky when it comes to polluting and/or harming the environment. DuPont is a prime example of this with its toxic “forever chemical.” Last year, I wrote about DuPont and its creation of perfluorooctanoic acid — PFOA for short — which was used as a material feedstock. It’s a manmade synthetic chemical that, once it’s in your system, lasts forever, hence the name “forever chemical.”
Back in March of this year, NBC reported that DuPont may avoid paying to clean up its mess. While cleanups and healthcare costs tied to this deadly chemical may possibly reach into the billions, it may try to get out through corporate spinoffs. In the case of DuPont, it transformed its company structure with complex transactions that passed on the responsibility for environmental obligations to other entities. One such entity is The Chemours Company, which was a new entity with DuPont’s chemical business spun off to its shareholders.
DuPont assigned a majority of its liabilities associated with PFAS to The Chemours Company. Another spinoff company was Corteva Inc, an agriculture science company that holds both legacy DuPont operations and PFAS liabilities. The third transaction occurred in June when the “new” DuPont was created. It was formerly known as DowDupont and now its businesses include electronics, construction, and even transportation. Thanks to the two spinoff companies and its new transformation, DuPont is pretty much legally clear of its PFAS obligations.
It gets even worse for those impacted by the toxic PFAS. If Chemours was to become insolvent, Corteva would be responsible, and it doesn’t have the funds to cover the tens of billions in estimated PFAS costs. However, this is a pretty common practice with these types of corporations. Clark Williams-Derry, an analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, pointed this out. “You’re seeing it again and again. Spinning off your legacy liabilities into a separate corporation and to some other responsible party appears to be part of the standard playbook in these industries.” If needed, the smaller spinoff just goes bankrupt and shuts down while the larger company is untouched.
Although DuPont isn’t Taminco or Avantor, it’s clear that many of these companies are adept at getting out of sticky situations, such as — in the case of Dupont — poisoning the communities its operations are located in. Not only are these companies harming the environment, but drug cartels are seeing chemical companies as an easy way to get the supplies they need to continue their illegal operations and the poisoning of Americans on these harmful drugs.
I’ve seen what meth and heroin can do to a person. I was never around these types of drugs growing up, but at my former job, my supervisor was a recovering heroin addict and she got back on drugs. Her entire personality changed.
The fact of the matter is that we need to hold these chemical companies responsible for their actions against both humanity and the environment. And until they are no longer allowed to get away with a small fine or allowed to make spinoff companies while rebranding their image, it is up to those of us to continue to call them out.
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