“For Erin Brockovich fans, a David vs. Goliath tale with a twist” (The New York Times Book Review)—the incredible true story of the lawyer who spent two decades building a case against DuPont for its use of the hazardous chemical PFOA, uncovering the worst case of environmental contamination in history—affecting virtually every person on the planet—and the conspiracy that kept it a secret for sixty years.
The story that inspired Dark Waters, the major motion picture from Focus Features starring Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, directed by Todd Haynes.
1998: Rob Bilott is a young lawyer specializing in helping big corporations stay on the right side of environmental laws and regulations. Then he gets a phone call from a West Virginia farmer named Earl Tennant, who is convinced the creek on his property is being poisoned by runoff from a neighboring DuPont landfill, causing his cattle and the surrounding wildlife to die in hideous ways. Earl hasn’t even been able to get a water sample tested by any state or federal regulatory agency or find a local lawyer willing to take the case. As soon as they hear the name DuPont—the area’s largest employer—they shut him down.
Once Rob sees the thick, foamy water that bubbles into the creek, the gruesome effects it seems to have on livestock, and the disturbing frequency of cancer and other health problems in the area, he’s persuaded to fight against the type of corporation his firm routinely represents. After intense legal wrangling, Rob ultimately gains access to hundreds of thousands of pages of DuPont documents, some of them fifty years old, that reveal the company has been holding onto decades of studies proving the harmful effects of a chemical called PFOA, used in making Teflon. PFOA is often called a “forever chemical,” because once in the environment, it does not break down or degrade for millions of years, contaminating the planet forever. The case of one farmer soon spawns a class action suit on behalf of seventy thousand residents—and the shocking realization that virtually every person on the planet has been exposed to PFOA and carries the chemical in his or her blood.
What emerges is a riveting legal drama “in the grand tradition of Jonathan Harr’s A Civil Action” (Booklist, starred review) about malice and manipulation, the failings of environmental regulation; and one lawyer’s twenty-year struggle to expose the truth about this previously unknown—and still unregulated—chemical that we all have inside us.
Robert Bilott is a partner at the law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister, LLP in Cincinnati, Ohio where he has practiced environmental law and litigation for more than twenty-eight years. He has been selected as one of the Best Lawyers in America for several years running and has received numerous honors for his work in environmental law and litigation. Rob is a former chair of the Cincinnati Bar Association’s Environmental Law Committee and a graduate of New College in Sarasota, Florida (BA) and the Ohio State University College of Law (JD, cum laude). In 2017, Rob received the international Right Livelihood Award, commonly known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” for his years of work on PFOA. Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer’s Twenty-Year Battle against DuPont is his first book.
“Bilott is an engaging narrator who breaks our hearts with tales of clients suffering excruciating ailments and amazes us with endless 14-hour days scouring technical reports in search of that one clue that might help him make his case. The naïve corporate defense attorney we meet at the book’s start is gone by the end, and he seems no longer surprised when he realizes that regulators, including the Environmental Protection Agency, are in DuPont’s pocket. By the time he learns PFOA and its chemical cousins are in the blood of virtually all of us, he knows it’s fallen to him to do the E.P.A.’s job. The book ends with him filing a federal class action suit against eight chemical companies on behalf of every American. His education is complete." —The New York Times Book Review
“In the grand tradition of Jonathan Harr’s A Civil Action, lawyer Bilott presents his own real-life legal thriller...readers will be riveted...smartly told and briskly paced, with keen attention to pertinent details.” —Booklist (starred review)
"Leaves little doubt that year after year, the corporation misled government agencies, courts, and consumers into a false sense of security about the poisonous nature of their manufacturing processes.” —Kirkus Reviews
“An intimate account of one of the most appalling environmental crimes in modern history. Exposure is a classic story of American good and American evil—of the triumph of ingenuity, diligence, and self-sacrifice over psychopathic corporate nihilism. Rob Bilott is a hero of our time.” —Nathaniel Rich, writer at large for the New York Times Magazine and author of Losing Earth: A Recent History
“Rob Bilott uncovered the most heinous corporate environmental conspiracy in history. The evidence is literally in your blood. Rob makes one shocking discovery after another while bringing the culprit to justice. You won’t be able to put Exposure down.”—Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group