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Rebecca Altman @rebecca_altman
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For those studying, tracking #PFAS pollution, what @j_g_allen has called the #foreverchemicals -- I wanted to offer some key resources about the relationship btwn the atom bomb and their early research & development w/ the Manhattan Project. An #envhist thread.

#PFOA #Teflon
2. In 1947, the Manhattan District wrote up the history of their fluorocarbon work in support of the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant at Oak Ridge: see Vol I Book VII, since declassified and w/ the US DoE. Appendix G explains the fluorocarbon and Teflon work:…
3. Joseph H. Simons, who's eponymous process, The Simons Process, was used by 3M to make #PFASs, did some of the original research on fluorocarbons that catalyzed the Manhattan Project's development work, tho' his process wasn't used in the bomb project). Here, in the @nytimes:
4. Per this doc, you can see the Manhattan Project developed fluorocarbons ("Joe's stuff) for use as sealants, coolants, lubricants, etc., in the K-25 plant. Here is a list of some of what's described, including notes on co's contracted to scale industrial production.
5. Also in 1947 -- the March issue of Industrial & Engineering Chemistry was dedicated to the critical role of fluorine and fluorocarbon R&D to the bomb. Below, a copy of the introduction, which explains the "breathtaking pace" at which fluorocarbons "were brought about."
6. Note: NO fluorocarbon patents or pubs were allowed issued during the war -- they were kept under secrecy orders because critical to the bomb project. If you want to read more about this, Christopher Bryson writes about it in his 2004 book:…
7. The popular press wrote some about the fluorocarbons contribution to the bomb. Like this piece, from Milton Silverman published in 1949 by Collier'sWeekly -- Taming Chemistry's Hellcat. And here, another 1949 clipping from the Philadelphia Inquirer.
8. The @SciHistoryOrg maintains 2 important oral histories wherein the early Manhattan Project interest in PTFE (often branded as Teflon) is described. Roy Plunkett (who 'discovered' Teflon) and Malcolm Renfrew, whom DuPont hired to scale it. PTFE's code name: D29 and K419.
9. As Renfew detailed in his @SciHistoryOrg oral history, he had figured a way to make PTFE in gram measure when John R. Dunning called him and his boss into Columbia/Manhattan and told them to fast-track and scale it. In weeks, they'd need a plant to churn out Teflon en masse.
10. Both Renfrew & the Manhattan District Hx above describe how hard Teflon R&D was, how it wasn't quite right for Oak Ridge (though Renfrew noted it played a role at the Hanford plutonium plant instead.) Note, too: the gov't considered running their own PTFE unit for a time.
11. Renfrew talks at length about the 1944 explosion at the pilot Teflon/PTFE plant at DuPont's former plastics factory in present-day Kearny, NJ, across the river from Manhattan, near the NJ Meadowlands. And later, how DuPont readied it for post-war release for industrial use.
12. I even conversed w/ a woman who had worked at this DuPont plant during WWII (in another division) -- she recalled walking to work the next morning, past the pilot PTFE plant w/ its sidewall shorn off. Some of the factory is still there. Some since redeveloped as housing.
13. There is a rich secondary literature to consider, too, on the history of early fluorocarbons, fluorinated plastics (like PTFE/Teflon) to the bomb. Harold Goldwhite wrote a detailed history for the Journal of Fluorine Chemistry in 1986 that I recommend.…
14. Many other sources explain how Teflon, the fluorocarbons, and their #PFAS ancestors, resulted from both private AND public investments. Via the Manhattan Project, public $ played a critical role in moving the chemistry & industrial capability into the world.
15. As space + narrative allowed, I told some of that story for @aeonmag -- but in the public interest, I've also gathered citations here, in this source document:…
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