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U.S. District Court Denies Remediation Request by Bhopal Victims

(Beyond Pesticides, February 17, 2009) A U.S. District Court Judge has denied a request for remediation in resolving an on-going lawsuit between the victims of the worst industrial disaster in human history in Bhopal, India and Union Carbide, the company responsible for the disaster, according to Reuters, after Union Carbide objected to the victims’ request for remediation. Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide in 2001 and with it, its liabilities for the chemical plant disaster involving the production of methyl isocyanate (MIC), used as an intermediate in the production of the insecticide carbaryl (Sevin). Yet Dow Chemical has refused to clean up the site, provide safe drinking water, compensate the victims, or disclose chemical information to physicians; claiming that the Indian government is responsible for the environmental cleanup.

In 1984, Union Carbide was responsible for the 1984 gas leak in Bhopal, India. Forty tons of deadly gas was released. Seven thousand people died in the next few days and 15,000 have died since from illnesses related to the accident. Over 100,000 victims still suffer from illnesses because of this event. In a 1989 settlement, Union Carbide agreed to pay $470 million to victims. However, $330 million still has not been paid to the victims. In addition, the site is still heavily contaminated and residents are continuously being poisoned without access to clean drinking water.

Beyond Pesticides, with groups around the world, is part of an international campaign working to expose and hold Dow Chemical accountable for its wrongdoings. Aside from its liabilities in Bhopal, Vietnam and around the world, Dow AgroSciences, a division of Dow Chemical, produces many of the most hazardous pesticides on the market, which contaminate our bodies and the environment through a variety of exposure routes. Dow has also been a leader in obscuring the science and weakening the regulation of these and other deadly chemicals, according to activists.

Some worry that what happened in Bhopal could happen in the U.S. On the night of August 28, 2008 a pesticide waste tank exploded at Bayer’s Institute, West Virginia plant. One worker was killed, another injured, and the blast was heard in Mink Shoals, more than 10 miles away. Despite individual accounts of the resulting air pollution, Bayer officials assured the public that no chemicals had escaped the plant. An investigation of Bayer’s safety history and the area’s emergency response reveals a shaky safety record. The Institute plant, formerly owned by Union Carbide, also produces MIC, like the sister plant in Bhopal, India.

The Institute plant currently stores more than four times the amount of MIC than that which leaked in Bhopal. In 1994, then-owner of the plant, Rhone-Poulenc Ag Co., estimated that a worst-case leak of the MIC stockpile could kill people in a 10-mile radius of the plant. Today, almost 26,000 people live within just three miles of the plant.

Protect your family from toxic hazards and help the families of Bhopal receive justice by boycotting the Dow product. See Beyond Pesticides’ Dow Consumer Campaign for more information.


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