Ex-Dow Workers File Suit Over Herbicide Exposure
(Beyond Pesticides, June 15, 2005) Former employees and families of deceased employees are suing Dow Chemical over Tordon, an herbicide plaintiffs claim caused liver disease, diabetes, respiratory cancer and other health problems. The suit was filed last week in Contra Costa County Superior Court.
The lawsuit claims that Dow concealed from employees the risks of manufacturing the herbicide. Evidence in the complaint states that Tordon "was known to cause illness and disease to humans, and that airborne contaminants were being released into the air and exposed to plaintiffs." Exposure to the chemical occurred during employment 25 to 55 years ago.
Tordon contains the active ingredient picloram. Dow used Tordon and 2,4-D to make Agent White, which the U.S. military sprayed to clear jungles and forests during the Vietnam War similar to Agent Orange.
The herbicide is used for general woody plant control, broad-leaf weed control, and range management. A handful of Tordon products remain registered with the EPA, most of which are approved for restricted use only.
While picloram, which has been linked to liver damage, is the active ingredient in Tordon, some Tordon products also contain 2,4-D, which is linked to cancer, endocrine (hormonal) disruption, and neurotoxicity, among other health effects. The Tordon manufacturing process also involves additional chemical exposure.
"For people involved in manufacturing the chemical, they're not only exposed to the chemical, but to the chemicals that make it," said Carolyn Cox, staff scientist with the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP). Picloram contains hexachlorobenzene, Cox said, "a pretty nasty chemical" that causes cancer.
NCAP helped win a federal lawsuit in 1996 in which the court ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify the ingredients of Tordon.
In another court action involving Dow, Bates et al v. Dow AgroSciences LLC, the Supreme Court upheld the right of citizens (pesticide users) damaged by pesticides to sue and stated that federal pesticide law does not offer adequate protection from “manufacturers of poisonous substances.” (See Daily News story.) Dow had argued that, because its products are registered by EPA, chemical manufacturers should be shielded from litigation.
TAKE ACTION: Avoid hazardous pesticides produced by Dow by rejecting their products. Look for the Dow label on consumer products, including such items as pesticides, bathroom cleaners, kitchen cleaners and furniture polish. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides Dow Chemical Consumer Campaign.