Press release: House members call on Dow Chemical to help those harmed by Bhopal chemical disaster

Sixth District of New Jersey
CONTACTS: Richard McGrath, Tali Israeli
(202) 225-4671
Download the entire signed letter here (large pdf file).

Washington, D. C. –  A broad coalition of members of Congress called on The Dow Chemical Company to finally provide medical care and to make up for the severe economic losses suffered by the victims of the Bhopal chemical disaster, an industrial accident whose damage and harm continues twenty five years later. In a sternly-worded letter signed by 27 house members – expressing the sentiment of many more – Dow Chemical was reminded of the economic, environmental and human toll inflicted by the poisonous gas leak on the night of December 2, 1984.

“The Bhopal disaster poisoned more than half a million people and gassed to death more than 7,000 innocent victims,” said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., who organized the congressional action. “The death toll continues to rise and the suffering continues because the effects of the chemical exposure are so insidious. Another 15,000 people have been lost to the long-term and fatal effects of the poisons they were exposed to, a death toll that will continue to grow. And the harm extends to another 150,000 people who suffer from illness and infirmity.”

Dow Chemical, which owns Union Carbide, bears legal responsibility for the actions and inactions of the operators of the Bhopal factory. Beginning in 1967, Union Carbide dumped thousands of tons of toxic chemicals in and around its Bhopal factory.  A host of international organizations and independent investigators have concluded that Union Carbide was responsible for inadequate technology, double standards in safety and emergency-preparedness, and reckless cost-cutting of security systems at the plant.

“Dow Chemical has yet to be brought to justice and the victims are yet to see justice done,” said Pallone. “Bhopal is widely regarded as the worst industrial disaster in history, so it carries a legacy with implications for the safety of chemical plants, the impact of globalization and the basic human rights of workers throughout the world.”

Dow’s defiance only adds to its corporate failings. Although the company set aside $2.2 billion in 2002 to put towards Union Carbide’s pending asbestos liabilities in the United States, it has continued to evade the liabilities it inherited from Bhopal. Before that, Union Carbide refused to appear before the Bhopal District Court to face the criminal charges pending against it for the disaster. It was served with a summons to appear in Bhopal District Court in 1992 and publicly stated it would not respond to the summons.

“Survivors are waiting for needed medical care and fair compensation for their losses,” said Pallone, “and their waiting has gone on for 25 years too long.”

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal voiced support for the action by saying: “The water contamination left by Union Carbide has poisoned two generations in Bhopal, and Union Carbide’s owner Dow Chemical Company is responsible for cleaning up the ontamination.  25
years is too long to wait for justice or clean water.  The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal is pleased to stand along side the 27 members of the U.S. House of Representatives in calling on Dow to follow the rule of law in India, and face their liabilities for the ongoing disaster in Bhopal.”

Members of Congress who signed the correspondence:
U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Pete Stark (D-CA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Brian Higgins (D-NY), James Oberstar (D-MI), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Donald Payne (D-NJ), James McGovern (D-MA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), James Langevin (D-RI), Michael Honda (D-CA)

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