List of Dow-Union Carbide facilities worldwide


This page started out as a collection of stories about Dow-Carbide's implementation of its famous "Zero Harm" policy. But the harder we looked the more stories we found of people who have been killed, or had their health ruined, by the greed and irresponsibility of these two companies, Union Carbide and Dow Chemical, which have now perhaps fittingly become one and the same.

So many stories, yet they almost all follow the same pattern. A dangerous process, an untested chemical, a carelessly run plant. People die, or have their lives ruined. The company attempts to cover up the disaster, denies responsibility, stalls and impedes legal processes, lobbies against changes in the law which would limit its activities or force it to spend more on safety. Innumerable are their lies, their cold-hearted attempts to bury evidence which could have saved the lives of their victims. From the Hawks Tunnel silicosis disaster of 1930 to the Vinyl Chloride cover-up that began in 1954 and lasted fifty years, taking in along the way Hiroshima, napalm, dioxin and Bhopal,

Local communities, beware, if you live near or work in a Dow-Carbide chemical plant, you are in great danger of being poisoned, just as the people of Bhopal were.

If you are a Dow investor, you were shaken by the asbestos liabilities inherited by Dow from Union Carbide. They are nothing compared to what is to come.
You should know the following: when Dow took over Union Carbide, it declared that there were no outstanding criminal charges against the company: as a court in Bhopal affirmed last month, that is a lie. Although Dow has inherited and paid out on Carbide liabilities in the US, it claims it does not inherit Carbide liabilities in India: that is legal nonsense. It further states that any claims against it were expunged by the 1989 "settlement" which has produced the spectacular sum of $500 for each injured survivor -- compare figures in the stories below -- but you should know that the settlement did not and does not cover claims arising against Carbide from its environmental rape of the Bhopal factory site, which Greenpeace has designated a global toxic hotspot. Read more on that story here. If Dow's management have any sense, they will quickly accept their liabilities in Bhopal, clear up their mess and compensate and rehabilitate their victims. This will be costly, but less costly in the long run than the abyss to whose brink they are drawing ever closer. Judging by their behaviour and public statements, we do not believe the present Dow management has enough sense to see this -- but perhaps you, their shareholder, do.

If you spot a story about Dow or its wholly-owned subsidiary Union Carbide in a local newspaper, please notify us.

Hawks Nest Tunnel, West Virginia c1930

It swallowed up 2000 lives, mostly of black workers who died of silicosis. Some were buried in mass graves to try to hide the deaths.

It was Union Carbide's first experience of mass killing.

 

Photographs - Hawk's Nest Tunnel Collection - from the West Virginia State Archive

1936 Transcript of a Report of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Labor
Hawk's Tunnel Disaster. "Whereas four hundred and seventy-six tunnel workers employed by the Rinehart and Dennis Company, contractors for the New Kanawha Power Company, subsidiary of the Union Carbide and Carbon Company, have from time to time died from silicosis contracted while employed in digging out a tunnel at Gauley Bridge, West Virginia; and Whereas one thousand five hundred workers are now suffering from silicosis contracted while employed in the construction of said tunnel at Gauley Bridge, West Virginia; and Whereas one hundred and sixty-nine of said workers were buried in a field at Summerville, West Virginia, with cornstalks as their only gravestones and with no other means of identification'   
Union Carbide, operating the Hawk's Nest mine with the same safety standards that would lead to the Bhopal tragedy decades later, chose not to issue dust masks or to wet the site to reduce workers' danger of contracting silicosis. An estimated two thousand workers died of the disease, while the company suppressed medical information about the causal relationship between inhaled silica dust and the illness and paid scientists to downplay the danger. In subsequent hearings a Union Carbide contractor bereft of PR packaging finally told the bald truth, saying "I knew I was going to kill (the mine workers) but I didn't know it was going to be this soon." See also April 1998 West Virginia Historical Society Quarterly below.

6 August 1945 Truman Library Public Papers
SIXTEEN HOURS AGO an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of T.N.T. It had more than two thousand times the blast power of the British "Grand Slam" which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare. It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East. A few days later the War Department Washington, D.C published the following Statement of the Secretary of War The recent use of the atomic bomb over Japan, which was today made known by the President, is the culmination of years of herculean effort on the part of science and industry working in cooperation with the military authorities . . . While space does not permit of a complete listing of the industrial concerns which have contributed so signally to the success of the project, mention should be made of a few. The du Pont de Nemours Company designed and constructed the Hanford installations in Washington and operate them. A special subsidiary of the M.W. Kellogg Company of New York designed one of the plants at Clinton, which was constructed by the J.A. Jones Company and is operated by the Union Carbide and Carbon Company.

May 1954 to date PBS Radio Network
Dow and Union Carbide knew in 1954 that vinyl chloride caused cancer, but they and other companies hid the facts from their own workers, from the public and from government for years.
Twenty-three years to the day after he went to work with vinyl chloride and other toxic chemicals at a plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Dan Ross died of a rare brain cancer. He was 46 years old, convinced that his job had killed him. His wife, Elaine, sued her husband's former employer and, over the next decade, the process of legal discovery led deeper and deeper into the inner chambers of the chemical industry and its Washington trade association. Hundreds of thousands of pages of documents were unearthed. Dan and Elaine Ross sued. Eventually, their attorney William Baggett, Jr. charged all vinyl chloride-producing companies with conspiracy.
It is a story we were never supposed to know – secrets that go back to the beginning of the chemical revolution. For almost 50 years, chemical companies and their Washington trade association kept records – including confidential letters and internal correspondence that discuss scientific evidence of the toxic effects of chemicals like vinyl chloride, and minutes of board meetings that record frank talk about strategies to defeat or delay regulation of their products. Read the documents for yourself. In document after document there emerges the industry's clear, callous disregard for everything but the holy dollar. The vinyl chloride scandal, which Dow, Carbide and their colleagues have managed to drag out for nearly 50 years, is the blueprint for their continuing refusal to take responsibility for the poisoning of drinking water wells in Bhopal by chemicals abandoned in their derelict factory.

 

1968 Time Magazine, 5 January - Time Magazine "Protesting napalm" Also in Business Week, 10 Feb 1969, and the story was covered in Pravda under the headline, "Out the Back Window, Mr. Jones."
The story of how Dow Chemical came to be involved in making napalm for the US government during the Vietnam War. Student protests and Dow's response and justification, "saving American lives". As novelist Robert Benchley commented at the time, this mantra can be used to justify anything.

 

The flaming rat (right) is an image from Harun Farocki's astute 1969 film, "Inextinguishable Fire" - about the production of Napalm B by the Dow Chemical Company for the War in Vietnam; about the abuses of human labor; and about documentary filmmaking.

1978 Bhopal.net
At Union Carbide's Cimanggis plant in Indonesia, 402 employees (more than half the work force of 750) were found to be suffering from kidney diseases attributable to mercury poisoning. (Much like Bhopal.) The company's doctor Dr.Maizar Syafei reported that she was asked by the company not to tell the workers that there was mercury in their drinking water or else the workers "would become anxious." We would like more information on this story. If you have anything we should know, please contact us.

28 February 1980 Nuclearfiles.org
PADUCAH, KENTUCKY, U.S.A. - Joe Harding, a former enrichment plant worker, is dying from cancer. He keeps a list of fellow workers the Union Carbide's enrichment plant at Paducah, Kentucky, who have died or are dying of cancers and blood diseases once considered rare. Of the 200 men Joe worked with since 1952, at least 50 are dead. He has had his stomach removed and contracts pneumonia every year. Union Carbide has never granted compensation to any of its employees for radiation-related injuries or illnesses although Joe and others have been involved in several law suits. (W.I.S.E. Vol.2 No.2 p.4)

2 June 1981Nuclearfiles.org
In the U.S.A. around $620,000 was awarded to the family of LEROY DRUMBACK on 2nd June, 1981. DRUMBACK worked for 15 years at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility which produces Plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads. He died of cancer of the colon in January 1974 and his case is the first in which damages were awarded for cancer caused by radiation at Rocky Flats. Dow Chemical Company, the plant operator where Krumback worked, is appealing against the decision. (W.I.S.E. Vol.3 No.4 p.6)

15 September 1995 Greenpeace
Dow has been aware of the association between dioxin and its products for thirty years or more. The corporation, however, has never acknowledged the full import of this problem nor developed a consistent plan to move away from its dependence on dioxin associated products. Instead, Dow has approached public and scientific debates about dioxin with a vigor and methodology that recalls the tobacco industry's participation in debates over public health implications of cigarette smoking. Dow consistently works to confuse and obscure public and scientific understanding of dioxin sources, and seeks to downplay or discredit evidence documenting dioxin's alarming health impacts. Dow works to dismantle occupational safety and health laws that provide workers some protection from Dow produced pesticides and solvents. The corporation works to dismantle clean water and clean air laws that provide some protection from the health and environmental impacts of its products. And finally, Dow vigorously opposes any government proposal to study or even look at problems associated with chlorine-chemistry, or to consider substitutes or alternatives.
Thoroughly researched 10 page report on Dow's bid to poison the entire human population of the planet (dioxin accumulates in tissues). See (below) Dow's typically disingenuous reaction to the discovery in August this year of alarmingly high dioxin levels in its hometown, Midland, MI. (And last year's discovery of its nasty secret in New Zealand.)

28 October 1995 CNN
"Jury awards $3.9 million in breast implant case" Report contains famous last words from Dow-Carbide's luckless PR man John Musser (really, Dow-Carbide must choose these guys for their total lack of irony) "We're disappointed that the jury was influenced by emotion, misinformation and the big lie strategy used by the plaintiff's lawyers, but we believe this verdict is not precedent setting, given the unusual aspects of this case," Musser said. "We will continue to defend ourselves vigorously and we will prevail."

19 August 1997 New Orleans
'A Louisiana jury Monday found that Dow Chemical was negligent in testing silicone for breast implants, lied about the possible risks and plotted with manufacturer Dow Corning - half-owned by Dow Chemical - to hide potential health dangers.' (Lied? Never! Musht be shome mishtake, Ed) The big lie rebounds on John Musser, who remarked, "This is not the end of the case, nor is it simply automatic now that there's going to be damages assessed,''

April 1998 West Virginia Historical Society Quarterly
'They're diggen a hole through a mountain in West Virginia. Even the niggers are maken forty cents.'
. . . Account of 1930s Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster which claimed 2000 lives, almost all black. The tunnel was of singular importance to the expanding Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation, which was developing the technology and markets for a whole new world of alloyed metals, chemicals and plastics. ...Rumors circulated wildly about the number of men dying. Some were dumped in the river bed and covered with the tunnel rock. Others were transported to Nicholas County and buried unceremoniously on a private farm. Pneumonia was given as the cause of death in most instances. In May, the Chief of the State Department of Mines began an investigation of working conditions on the tunnel project. According to the Fayette Tribune, the investigation was "precipitated by an unusual number of deaths . . . through accidents and disease: and the death rate was "high, especially among colored workers." No report, or any further mention of the investigation appeared in the local newspaper. Carbide got away with paying derisory compensation. Plus ca change. See here for a pic of the site as it is today.

 

27 October 1998 Ashbury Park Press
"Something is terribly wrong in Toms River," Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg. Tests of water at the wellhead of Well 29 found levels of trichloroethylene, a probable carcinogen, between .4 and .8 parts per billion. The state standard for trichloroethylene in drinking water is 1 part per billion. "We understand residents' heightened concern about the quality of water," said Union Carbide spokesman Tom Sprick. Sprick has also been Carbide's mouthpiece on the Bhopal issue. Trichloroethylene (trichloroethene) has also been found in Bhopal's wells at 50 times greater than EPA limits. Why does Tom Sprick not understand the concern of Bhopal's residents? SEE STORY OF 10 JANUARY 2002, BELOW.

22 August 1999 Washington Post
Excessive Uranium Found In Worker's Bones Who Protested
"
We turned the badges in and that was the last we heard of it," said Al Puckett, a retired union shop steward who worked at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky, "No one ever said anything to us." The Paducah plant supplied radioactive fuel for nuclear bombs. Now long-overlooked medical evidence shows that for some workers radiation doses were far higher than previously believed and may have been dozens of times above the federal limits. The exhumed bones of uranium worker Joseph Harding, who died in 1980, offers the strongest corroboration to date of hazardous conditions inside the plant, where workers labored for decades in a haze of radioactive dust that was sometimes laced with plutonium. DOE Secretary Bill Richardson called Harding a "hero of the Cold War," but for nine years before his death, Harding's claims of radiation exposure were vigorously challenged by contractors (at that time, Union Carbide, Martin Marietta, and Lockheed Martin) and DOE officials who insisted that the plant was safe. Before his death, Harding developed stomach cancer, lung perforations, and growths on his limbs. Harding had insisted that the plant always had a dense fog of uranium dust and smoke that would cling to workers' skin and coat their throats and teeth. A DOE study in 1981 attributed Harding's death to a combination of smoking and eating country ham. A new study is also tracking death rates among workers at the K-25 plant in Oak Ridge where there is an unusually high rate of lung and bone cancer among workers, as well as a third facility in Ohio. DOE admits it is now clear that uranium workers were not properly protected until at least 1990. "This reaffirms our decision to get out of the business of fighting sick workers," said David Michaels, DOE Assistant Secretary for EHS on Aug. 20. "Right now we should be bending over backward to help those workers." (Washington Post, Aug. 22, 1999. For more radiation victim information go to http://www.downwinders.org )

October 19, 2000 United Press International
Union Carbide plant closed after leak
The local authorities took action against the a subsidiary of U.S.-based Union Carbide group, after receiving complaints from residents about respiratory disorders, burning of eyes and loss of hair. Residents gathered at the factory and attacked Union Carbide officials, who were trying to pacify the crowd. The managing director of Union Carbide Lanka, Gamini Gunasekara, and several others were injured in the violence. Gunasekera told United Press International that the leak was an accident because of an employee's fault. The employee, he said, had poured ethyl acrylate into the water treatment plant. "As the vapors spread people complained of uneasiness and breathing problems, so we ourselves shut down operations. The local authorities then sent us a letter to close the factory," Gunasekera said. Local newspaper and television channels compared the incident to that of Bhopal in India where thousands of people died and many continue to suffer because of the leakage of methyl isocyanide from the Union Carbide plant in 1984. Newspapers quoted residents of Je Ela saying that more than 1,000 people sought medical treatment after Monday's leakage. Doctors said that most of those brought to Ja Ela hospital or the national hospital were suffering from respiratory disorders. Drinking water in Ja Ela, newspapers said, had been polluted because of the effluent discharged from Union Carbide factory. "People have to go a long way to fetch safe drinking water," a report said. Just like Bhopal, even down to the management trying to blame an employee. Down to the undrinkable water near the plant.

29 November 2000 Socialist World News
"Colombo residents demand halt to toxic pollution"
On the night of October 16, Union Carbide's binding gum-producing factory discharged chemicals, including poisonous ethyl acrylate, into an open drain in the heavily-populated suburb, seriously harming at least 100 people, including 25 children. The discharge immediately sparked angry protests because residents have complained for five years about the dangerous pollution in Ekala, about 25 kilometres north of Colombo city.
The leak affected the water and air over a two-square kilometre area. Residents suddenly suffered sore eyes, headache, vomiting, breathing problems, choking and rising temperatures. Children were taken to nearby hospitals, with some serious cases transferred to Colombo's national hospital the next day. More than 500 people gathered outside the factory during the night and demanded its immediate closure. Security officers admitted that the company, a subsidiary of the US multinational, had released contaminated water into the drain but claimed that the incident had ended. They refused to allow residents into the plant to see for themselves. However, the protest forced the local council to order the plant's temporary closure. When the affected residents met the next morning at a small hall to discuss further steps, a leading local politician from the Peoples Alliance government led a mob assault on them. A gang of about 15 attacked the meeting with leather belts, batons and bottles. Those who fled were attacked with stones and some suffered leg injuries as they had tried to scale walls to escape.
Sixteen years after Bhopal and Carbide had learned nothing.

Jan/Feb 2001Investigate, New Zealand
"Dow Chemical's Nasty Little Secret -- Agent Orange Dump found under New Zealand Town" A former top official at New Plymouth's lvon Watkins Dow chemical factory has confirmed the worst fears of residents - part of the town may be sitting on a secret toxic waste dump containing the deadly Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange."Agent Orange: "We've buried it under New Plymouth" ... "And if any further proof were needed that surplus Agent Orange had been dumped at New Plymouth, local residents found a drum of the chemical on the beach near Waireka Stream." Outrageous stuff. The company had kept its dirty little secret for 20 years.

March 2001
Cancer In A Can: Small market, big liability According to minutes of a January 30, 1973 meeting, the Manufacturing Chemists Association's vinyl chloride research team, with representatives from Dow, PPG, B.F. Goodrich, Ethyl Corporation, Union Carbide, and other major companies, met to discuss what position the MCA should convey to its member companies regarding the continued use of vinyl chloride as an aerosol propellant. Their primary concern was to avoid "undue and premature attention on the industrial hygiene aspects of the problem," and they dealt with it by taking no position. (view entire document) Not only was the MCA avoiding public discussion of VCM use in aerosols, they were also hiding the evidence that VCM causes cancer.

9 May 2001 Bureau of Industry & Security, US Department of Commerce
Dow Chemical Company Subsidiary Settles Charges of Illegal Chemical Exports. The U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Export Administration (BXA) today imposed a $30,000 civil penalty on Holland-based Dow Benelux N.V. (Dow Benelux N.V.), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company. BXA alleged that Dow Benelux N.V. reexported U.S.-origin triethanolamine to the Ivory Coast and Turkey without obtaining the required authorizations...The chemicals subject to these controls have legitimate commercial uses but also have the potential to be used as precursors in chemical weapons.

26 June 2001 Courier Journal, Louisville, Kentucky
Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant workers who developed cancer after years of radiation exposure almost certainly became ill
because of their jobs, a British radiation specialist concluded. However, critics say the conclusion of Michael Thorne, contained in an affidavit filed to support a $10 billion lawsuit against the uranium plant's former operators, is faulty in assessing blame. Thorne is an expert witness being paid by the plaintiffs.
Tomm Sprick (yes, for it is he) a spokesman for defendant Union Carbide, now part of Dow Chemical, said Thorne's affidavit was ''one of many documents that have been filed in this case, and our attorneys will be reviewing this latest filing within the context of the entire case.'' Did you know that Union Carbide was involved in irradiating people as well as gassing them?

10 January 2002 Toms River
Union Carbide and childhood cancers. "Representatives of 69 families in Toms River, NJ and three companies – Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corporation, Union Carbide Corporation, and United Water Resources Inc. – today announced a settlement in principle regarding childhood cancer concerns and other claims of the families." No settlement in Bhopal.

11 January 2002 InjuryBoard.Com Dow Chemical Inherits Union Carbide's Asbestos Liability.
"Dow Chemical Company inherited much more than another chemical supplier when it acquired Union Carbide Corporation last year. The billion-dollar chemical maker has settled several asbestos-related lawsuits filed against Carbide, which once made products containing the toxic material. The latest settlement involved fourteen Texas plaintiffs. Analysts say that Dow's investors are concerned because of the increasing number of asbestos-related lawsuits facing the company. Dow's exposure to Carbide's asbestos liability is estimated at $150 million."

22 January 2002 Business News
A case of asbestos exposure at Dow? By buying Union Carbide, Dow not only became the world's biggest chemicals company but it also picked up a docket of asbestos liability cases that industry analysts warn could eat into earnings for years to come. And just wait till the Bhopal liabilities (nowhere mentioned in this article) hit them.

20 March 2002 L.A. Times
Watch what you blow your nose with. In the sixties Union Carbide sold asbestos to at least one paper products manufacturer for use in its facial tissues, according to a recently discovered document.

11 April 2002 KazanNews "Dow handling asbestos exposure . . . for now"
"The company has hired some of the best lawyers to defend itself, he said. 'They see the writing on the wall."

15 May 2002 Port Lavaca Wave
From the Port Lavaca Wave, a story of a chemical spill that cleared a children's school. Featuring none other than your old favourite and ours, Dow Seadrift's ill-starred PR Leader, Kathy Hunt,

July 2002 Victoria Business Magazine
Dow saved $1.3 billion in its first year of merger with Union Carbide through "synergies". This article from the Victoria Business Magazine reveals what those synergies were. People thrown out of work. Cutting costs and staff contributed to the Bhopal disaster.

30 July 2002 Cosa Costra Times "Asbestos verdict nets $4.2 million"
SAN FRANCISCO - A jury has awarded a $4.2 million verdict to a cancer-stricken San Ramon man and his wife for exposure to asbestos-laden plastics when he worked at the Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard. But the man, Victor Trinchese, may see only a fraction of that money, because the jury found Union Carbide only partly at fault.

14 August 2002 Mercury News
"Study: Drug firms bowed to pressure from cigarette makers". Dirty Dow gave in to financial pressure from Philp Morris to downplay its Nicorette patches designed to help smokers quit, despite knowing the dangers of smoking. Also on Intellihealth.com and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)

16 August 2002 Houston Chronicle
A few months ago, only a handful of people had ever heard of "dead peasant" life insurance. But word has gotten out now that Dow and a few other companies have been sued for taking out secret life insurance policies on their employees and keeping the proceeds when the workers die. As the widows and widowers file lawsuits to recover the insurance money, which some judges have ruled rightly belong to the family members, one well-known Houston law firm is trying to position itself as the expert for companies to call when family members of deceased employees start asking questions.

28 August 2002 Midland Daily News, Michigan
State testing for dioxin in the Tittabawassee River floodplain has produced results that range anywhere from normal background level to a dramatic 1,500 parts per trillion – and higher in deeper soils. And for the first time, a food warning comes with the news.


28 August 2002 Midland Daily News, Michigan
Staff from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality met with reporters and others at the Saginaw Bay office Tuesday to offer more information about dioxin in the Tittabawassee River floodplain.

24 October 2002 - MSN Money
Jury Rules Against Union Carbide" CHARLESTON, W.V./NEW YORK (Reuters) - A West Virginia jury on Thursday found Dow Chemical Co.'s (DOW) Union Carbide unit exposed workers to asbestos poisoning over a 35-year period, opening the door to millions of dollars in potential damages.

25 October - Charleston Gazette
Carbide should pay, jury decides - Safe work environment around asbestos not provided, verdict says. "Union Carbide exposed workers to “unreasonable” work conditions for 35 years and should pay for it, a Kanawha County jury decided Thursday. Between 1945 and 1980, Union Carbide failed to provide a safe work environment for workers who worked around asbestos fibers, jurors said. Jurors decided that if future trials determine Union Carbide is to blame for individual workers’ illnesses, those workers’ monetary awards should be tripled. Plaintiffs’ attorneys said after the trial that they were most pleased with that part of the verdict."