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E-M:/ Press Release on Chemical Industry Report



------------------------------------------------------------------------- Enviro-Mich message from Tracey Easthope -------------------------------------------------------------------------


No More Bhopals!
Report on Violations by the Chemical Industry Urges a
New Way of Doing Business

Midland, December 3, 1999. On the anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, the environmental groups Environmental Health Watch, Lone Tree Council and the Ecology Center released a report which details human rights violations of the chemical industry through the last few decades, and urges action to ensure that basic human rights are not trampled by the power of global corporations.

The report, "Beyond the Chemical Century: Restoring Human Rights and Preserving the Fabric of Life," is being released in fifteen countries on the 15th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. On December 2 and 3, 1984, poisonous gases escaped from a Union Carbide pesticide factory into Bhopal, India, killing thousands of residents and wounding more than 50,000. The report details this accident, and several other actions by the chemical industry which have resulted in human rights violations.

Dow Chemical, headquartered in Midland, has recently announced plans to merge with Union Carbide. Dow has not indicated how they will deal with outstanding claims by Bhopal victims who have not been adequately compensated for health care and other claims as a result of the disaster, including contamination at the site of the accident.

"All residents who live near chemical plants live with the possibility of a chemical accident, in addition to exposures from routine daily emissions. The recent releases by Dow Chemical highlight the need for the company to continue to reduce and eliminate potential hazards from the plant and to replace them with less toxic alternatives," said Diane Hebert of Environmental Health Watch.

The human rights violations detailed in the report include the production of products and waste that threatens the health of humans and wildlife. One chapter of the report details widespread dioxin contamination of the environment and the food supply. Dioxin is a byproduct of the production and disposal of some chlorinated compounds. It is one of the most toxic compounds ever studied. Dow is one of the world's leading producers of chlorinated chemicals. The Midland area is contaminated with dioxin as a result of production activities at Dow Chemical.

"It has been four years since the state found high levels of dioxin in Midland, and we've seen no Dow initiatives, actions, or attitudes regarding an aggressive clean-up, " said Terry Miller, of the Lone Tree Council. "The cumulative cancers, birth defects, and reproductive disorders scattered, untracked, and anonymous through a community are as tragic as the dramatic deaths of thousands in an accidental release, and in many ways more insidious because the responsible party is never held accountable."

"Dow still does not have a comprehensive plan to reduce dioxin emissions in Midland, including phasing out products which may be contaminated with dioxin or which create dioxin in manufacture or disposal," said Tracey Easthope, MPH, Director of the Environmental Health Project at the Ecology Center.

The report also explains how the largest chemical corporations have not only degraded the world's ecosystems, but also violated basic human rights as recognized by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights: the right to life, health, and a livable environment.

The report also details instances in which the chemical industry has been responsible for threatening the health and well being of millions of people. For example:

o Japan's Chisso Corporation knew for a decade that its mercury-containing waste discharge caused Minamata Disease, which attacks the human nervous system. As a result, 3,000 died and at least 10,000 survivors continue to live with deteriorated nervous systems. Chisso denied responsibility for victim's suffering.

o By 1974, scientists confirmed that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) deplete the ozone layer, but DuPont continued massive CFC production until the early 1990's. As a result, up to one billion people may develop skin cancer, and as many as 17 million people may die, according to the U.S. EPA.

The chemical industry's global health threats are accelerating under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Under this new regime, corporations can export dangerous products and technologies to 134 nations, while looking for cheap labor and weak environmental and public health protections. When individual nations have imposed precautionary regulations defending their citizens, the WTO has struck down such rules as an unfair restriction of trade.

The report follows the recent filing of a class action lawsuit against Union Carbide in New York on behalf of victims in Bhopal. The suit charges the company with racial discrimination in the reckless manner it operated its Bhopal factory, as well as with crimes against humanity.

Citizens call on Dow Chemical to:
- Publicly respond to concerns from Bhopal victims regarding claims
- Publicly commit to a dioxin elimination strategy in Midland and corporate-wide
- Publicly commit to remediating contaminated areas where necessary

Full text of the report can be accessed at http://
www.essential.org/cchw

Contact:
Diane Hebert, Environmental Health Watch 517-832-1694
Terry Miller, Lone Tree Council, 517-686-6386
Tracey Easthope, Ecology Center, 734-663-2400


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