If you love real life thrillers, here are a trio

The past couple of days I’ve spent some time trying to figure out how I can toss two non-stick frying pans without doing permanent damage to our environment. From what I’ve been seeing, it’ll take a special recycling organization with the capacity to scrape out and safely discard the non-stick linings.

Years ago, when I learned about the toxicity of Teflon, I threw out my wok without a moment’s pause. But once I had to depend exclusively on my excellent French stainless and copper pans, I got grumpy when I had to use the occasional steel wool pad to get the frying pans clean.

Teflon had spoiled me rotten. So I bought a couple of non-Teflon non-stick pans, which were variable in their non-stickyness but basically OK.

A few days ago, I wrote something about Colin Powell and how, coincidentally, I’d just seen a British movie, Official Secretsa low-key legal thriller, a true story, about the Iraq War and one woman’s courageous effort to stop it from happening.

In another odd coincidence, I also mentioned Dark Waters, another terrific, low-key legal thriller, a true story about a long battle an environmental lawyer (played by Mark Ruffalo) had against DuPont Chemicals, for polluting a river with FPOAs (perfluorooctanoic acid, the stuff that made Teflon non-stick) and doing great harm to the lives of the people who lived around and depended upon that water.

And here we are, a few days after that, David Gelles and Emily Steel publish in the Times a long and thorough and disturbing story about DuPont and its offshoot, Chemours. These big chemical companies have moved on from dumping dangerous stuff into the Ohio River; now they’re doing the same thing dumping newly developed dangerous stuff, bearing a cute brand name, Gen X, into the Cape Fear River.

New river, new substance, same old lies and evasion. Sickening, especially for anyone who considers corporations utter evil.

So that is thriller one, Dark Waters, and thriller two, “How Chemical Companies Avoid Paying for Pollution: DuPont factories pumped dangerous substances into the environment. The company and its offspring have gone to great lengths to dodge responsibility.”

(A bit of good news: Michael Regan, the director of the EPA, is working on regulations governing these dangerous chemicals.)

There’s a bonus thriller, too. Within this latest Times article is a link to a 2016 Times Magazine piece by Nathaniel Rich, “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare:Rob Bilott was a corporate defense attorney for eight years. Then he took on an environmental suit that would upend his entire career — and expose a brazen, decades-long history of chemical pollution.”

(The pollution Bilott confronted, by the way, was in West Virginia.)

Long title, long piece and I verify it as a real-life thriller, the ground to Dark Waters’ reality. I don’t recall reading it when it first came out but now, having seen Dark Waters, I can tell you the article is as breathtaking as is the later movie. Do both.

There you are. Three thrillers, bearing with them grave warnings to all of us.

Meanwhile, I’ll continue looking for a way to get rid of my pans without harming the earth. And I’m going back to a stainless steel sauté pan. You’ll never hear me grouse again about cleaning it, even if I have to use steel wool.


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