Dow Chemical’s Toxic Legacy
Dow is the world’s second largest chemical company, a producer of chemicals, agrochemicals, hydrocarbons, plastics, GMO seeds and other products.
Its Union Carbide subsidiary was responsible for the 1984 Bhopal, India toxic gas leak, considered the world’s worst industrial disaster, killing thousands, responsible for hundreds of thousands of non-fatal injuries, causing longterm health problems for victims.
Dow refuses to pay them and families of the deceased compensation. It considers Union Carbide’s 1989 $470 million settlement adequate – hardly for over half a million people adversely affected, suffering from health problems.
During the Vietnam War, Dow was criticized by anti-war protesters for the production of napalm and Agent Orange.
The former incendiary weapon was first used during WW II – developed secretly in the early 1940s by my freshman chemistry professor Louis Fieser. He once said “I have no right to judge the morality of napalm just because I invented it.”
It sticks to the skin, causing severe burns and painful deaths in many cases. It’s called the “wonder weapon” for its ability to incinerate anything in its path.
Agent Orange is a dioxin-containing defoliant, one of the deadliest substances known, a potent carcinogenic human immune system suppressant. Minute amounts can cause serious health problems and death.
It remains toxic for decades, contaminating soil, foliage, air and water – poisoning crops, plants, animals, sea life and humans.
In 2004 the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA) sued Dow and other companies on behalf of Vietnamese victims – in vain. A federal district and appeals court dismissed the claim.
Separate lawsuits against Dow on behalf of US veterans and other companies were settled out of court.
Toxic emissions from Dow’s Midland, MI operations became serious health hazards for area residents. Its 2,4,5-T dioxin-containing herbicide remains in use in America.
A Bush/Cheney administration EPA official was forced to resign because of her efforts to demand Dow remediate its dioxin contamination.
In 2009, a Midland cleanup plan was announced. In 2011, the company agreed to an absurdly minor $2.5 million settlement for violating the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
In the 1980s, Dow Corning was sued by thousands of women, claiming leakage from the company’s breast implants caused autoimmune diseases. In 1992, the company stopped making them, later admitting it falsified data on their safety.
In 1995, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, later agreeing to pay $3.2 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits.
In the 1980s, hundreds of women sued Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, claiming its Bendectin morning sickness drug caused birth defects. The case was dismissed, the drug later discontinued.
Dow plant workers reported illnesses from exposure to toxic chemicals, the company reluctant to assume responsibility.
Dow’s toxic history dates from 1897. Trump chose its chairman Andrew Liveris to head his American Manufacturing Council (now dissolved) – Liveris heading it a conflict of interest, hazardous to farmers, the environment and public health.
The council serves as a liaison between US manufacturers and the federal government. Friends of the Earth responded, saying Liveris “should be disqualified…due to his likely conflicts of interests.”
“Serving as head of the American Manufacturing Council could allow (him) to use a government post to benefit Dow Chemical and to line his own pockets.”
In December 2015, Dow and DuPont announced the decision by their boards of directors to merge – the combined company named DowDuPont, the merger completed on September 1, 2017.
Plans are to split the new entity into three separate publicly traded companies, expected within 18 – 24 months following the merger (agriculture, materials science, and specialty products) – subject to regulatory and board approval.
Currently six agrichemical/GMO seed companies are negotiating mergers, creating three giant multinational corporations controlling this industry if concluded as planned.
The other mergers involve Monsanto and Bayer, along with Syngenta and ChemChina. They’ll dominate the GMO seed and pesticide market.
According to Friends of the Earth, Trump “rubber stamps these mega-mergers, limiting farming and food options and increasing prices for farmers and consumers.”
They “tilt the balance of power away from independent science and the health and safety of the American people towards the influence of chemical corporations.”
My newest book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."