December 4th, 2002


Letter Sent to Parker, Stavropoulos on Opening Day
of Salomon Smith Barney Chemical Conference

Report by Tim Edwards

NEW YORK - A group of socially responsible investment funds, with assets valued at $13 billion, are urging Dow Chemical Company to address ongoing economic, health and environmental liabilities stemming from a poisonous gas leak in Bhopal, India, which has killed and injured tens of thousands of people to date. The investors, Trillium Asset Management, Domini Social Investments, Calvert Group and others, sent a letter to Dow"s CEO Michael Parker and board Chair William Stavropoulos, calling on them to "continue dialogue with representatives of Bhopal citizens groups, to take their claims seriously, and to work towards a mutually acceptable solution."

The letter comes as the chemical industry gathers in New York for the two-day 13th annual Salomon Smith Barney Chemical Conference, which will feature a presentation by Parker.  "I can"t think of a more fitting occasion to deliver this letter " at a conference to discuss the future of the chemical industry in the U.S.," said Steve Lippman of Trillium Asset Management.  "On the 18th anniversary of arguably the worlds" largest industrial disaster, and at a time when the public has never been more concerned about corporate responsibility, Dow must address the ongoing problems of the citizens of Bhopal, where even after all these years children born to survivors suffer debilitating illnesses, and mothers exposed to contaminated drinking water carry mercury in their breast milk."

In February 2001, Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide, the owners of the pesticide plant in Bhopal in 1984, the year of the disaster.  In January of this year Dow settled asbestos lawsuits filed against Union Carbide in the United States - part of the liabilities it assumed as a result of the Carbide buyout - but it has so far refused to take any responsibility for the pending liabilities connected to the Bhopal disaster, which include a Class Action in New York and an ongoing criminal case in the Indian courts. Following the asbestos litigation, Dow"s stock fell a dramatic £7 billion dollars due to investor fears of further damages.

Publicly, Dow continues to insist that Union Carbide had completely satisfied the Indian courts and that no legal issues remain outstanding. "In fact", Gary Cohen of the ICJB said today, "a warrant for the arrest of Carbide"s ex-CEO Warren Anderson on charges of "culpable homicide" has been out since 1992, charges reaffirmed by the Central Magistrates Court, Bhopal, in August. And in October, India"s Home Affairs Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister confirmed that India will formally ask for Anderson"s extradition from the U.S." In what was a poor month for the company, India"s Central Bureau of Investigation also announced that it would move to name Dow Chemical Accused #10 in the Bhopal criminal case in place of Union Carbide. The Indian State of Madhya Pradesh, of which Bhopal is the capital, followed this by saying that it would ask the Indian Courts to compel Dow Chemical to pay for the clean-up of the contamination polluting the soil and ground water around the abandoned factory

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal has long been pressing Union Carbide and now Dow to provide for adequate health care for gas survivors, and to clean up the abandoned factory site. Two days ago, on the 18th anniversary of the disaster, a procession through central Bombay delivered contaminated soil and water from the site to Dow Chemical's headquarters in India.  The procession, led by more than 200 Bhopali women, also delivered 4,000 brooms to the company alongside the message, "Dow, Clean Up Your Mess."

Dow, whose $28 billion in annual sales make it the world's 'largest chemical manufacturer, has recently associated itself with a number of prominent "sustainable development" initiatives, including the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the chemical industry"s own "Responsible Care" programme of self-regulation. Ironically, Responsible Care - developed through a partnership of Union Carbide and Dow in the immediate aftermath of the Bhopal disaster " has, as one of its abiding principles, the promise "to work with others to resolve problems associated with past handling and disposal practices".

The poisonous gas leak at the Bhopal pesticide factory in 1984 left 8,000 people dead within three days. To date, more than 20,000 have died from ongoing health problems associated with exposure to the lethal gases, and up to 150,000 survivors are chronically ill.  Much of the abandoned factory remains, with tons of toxic chemicals left on site, leaching into the soil and contaminating some of the communities" drinking water.  Survivors do not have adequate health care, and received an average of USD$500 each from a settlement negotiated by the Indian government with Union Carbide without the survivors" consent.

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Contacts:  Steve Lippman, Trillium, (415) 392 4806;
Gary Cohen, ICJB, (617) 524-6018
Casey Harrell, Greenpeace, (202) 319-2497.

The letter can be located at:


December 2-3, 1984 • Poisonous gas leak from Union Carbide"s pesticides factory. First Information Report filed on December 4. In three days around 8,000 people die:

December 7• Prime accused Warren Anderson amongst nine others arrested, released on bail of Rs 25,000. Union Carbide named as accused #10 in the criminal case charging culpable homicide.

February 1989 • Government and Union Carbide strike a settlement. The compensation amount is brought down to $470 million from $3.3 billion. UCC"s criminal charges quashed " reinstated in 1991.

April 1992 • After ignoring four court summonses, Anderson declared a fugitive from law. Magistrate in pending criminal proceedings ordered the attachment of the shares of UCIL held by UCC.

November 1994 • Supreme allows Union Carbide to sell off its encumbered assets to fund a hospital. Criminal proceedings against Union Carbide become difficult to enforce because, although the accused refuse to appear in Court, Carbide no longer has any assets in India.

August 1999 • Union Carbide announces forthcoming merger with Dow Chemical Company.

November 1999 • Greenpeace tests soil, groundwater and wells in and around the derelict Union Carbide factory and finds 12 volatile organic chemicals and mercury in quantities up to 6 million times higher than expected. The toxic inventory includes sevin, temik, lindane carbon tetrachloride, dichlorobenzenes and others. A report by Delhi based Shristi in Jan 2002 found lead and mercury in the breast milk of nursing mothers in neighbouring communities:

November 1999 •
Several victims of Bhopal disaster file class action suit against Union Carbide and its former CEO, Warren Anderson, in federal court in New York, charging Carbide with violating international human rights law, environmental law, and international criminal law.

February 2001• Merger occurs. Dow inherits assets and liabilities of Union Carbide. However, Dow claims it is not responsible for a factory it didn"t operate - lawyers advise that under Indian and U.S. law this is legal nonsense. Survivors demand Dow should be held responsible for all medical and environmental liabilities in Bhopal and that pending criminal liabilities against UCC be transferred to Dow. Dow's $10 billion acquisition of Union Carbide opens the possibility of enforcing criminal liability against the corporation as Dow has four subsidiaries and substantial assets in India.

November 2001 • US Second Circuit Court of Appeals reinstates parts of the Class Action, allowing all claims of pollution and contamination unrelated to the disaster to proceed. Internal documents to be obtained from Union Carbide via the discovery process:

January 9, 2002 • Dow accepts Carbide"s liabilities in the U.S. and settles a Texas asbestos lawsuit originally filed against Union Carbide. Its share price skids 23%, to close at $26.83 on Jan. 18. The plunge wiped out $7.16 billion in equity and put Dow shares back where they were in October, 2000.

August 28, 2002 • Charges of culpable homicide reaffirmed against Warren Anderson by Chief Judicial Magistrate Kothe in Bhopal court. Court demands his immediate extradition.

September 30, 2002 • A new study from The People"s Science Institute, Dehra Dun confirms the presence of mercury in Bhopal drinking water - in some places as high as 2microgrammes per litre - and warns of grave risk to health. People have been drinking the water for 18 years after the gas leak.

October 6 2002 • Jhaadoo Maaro Dow Ko" campaign launched by survivors in Bhopal. The phrase means "Hit Dow with a broom". It is an invitation for Dow to clean up its toxic mess and a promise to sweep Dow out of India if it does not.

October 18 2002 • CBI"s Mr Sahay states that he has appealed to the Union government to name Dow alongside its criminally absconding subsidiary Carbide. Once permission is granted, Dow Chemicals will also be an accused in the Bhopal criminal case.

October 21 2002 • State of Madhya Pradesh announces that it will petition the Indian Supreme Court to compel Dow Chemical to clean up the contaminated soil and ground water at the Union Carbide factory site.

October 21 - 23 2002
• Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs I D Swamy  and External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha in separate interviews tell reporters that India is proceeding with an application to extradite Carbide"s ex-CEO Warren Anderson from the US.

October 25 2002 • Guidelines drawn up by Greenpeace for the clean-up of Carbide"s abandoned factory site are presented to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh and simultaneously handed to Dow offices in India, Europe and the USA. Clean up costs could top $500 million.

November 14 2002 • Survivors release documents obtained via discovery in the New York class action. Documents show that UCC imposed "unproven technology" in the critical MIC unit in order to cut costs and retain control of their Indian subsidiary.

November 22 2002 • More documents show UCC to be aware of massive groundwater and soil contamination in Bhopal for more than ten years. The company issued public denials throughout, eventually abandoning the site to the Madhya Pradesh govt.

November 25 2002 • Survivor organizations, community members and Greenpeace attempted to safely contain the hazardous pesticides in Bhopal.  Activists trained in hazardous material handling arrived from around the world to lend their expertise, but efforts were thwarted by local police, who beat and arrested 56 people.

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