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Students: Dow's Chemical Guinea Pigs

How would YOU like to be a chemical guinea pig for Dow? If you’re a student strapped for cash, Dow will happily give you some pesticide to swallow.

In 1998, Dow recruited 60 college students in Nebraska through an ad in the school newspaper urging them to "earn extra money". After calling 402-474-PAYS and signing a seven-page consent form, the students were given pills loaded with the active ingredient in Raid roach spray, Dursban. Later the chemical - a nerve-gas derivative - was found to cause neurological damage, and the EPA withdrew it from household use in 1999. Dow AgroSciences paid the test subjects $460 each.

This isn’t to say that Dow only considers students as test subjects – that’s not true. The company has also tested its chemicals on prisoners – in 1971, Dow tested chlorpyrifos on inmates at the Clinton Correctional Facility in New York, (1) and in 1965, Dow conducted dioxin tests on inmates at the Holmesburg Prison in Pennsylvania. (2) So students are in good company. In fact, Dow has conducted at least five human studies with chemicals since the 1970s (3) – students are only the latest population that Dow has used to test its poison.

At issue is the safety standard that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses to protect us from pesticide exposure: a level of harm is established for animals, and then that level, divided by a safety factor of ten, becomes the standard that the EPA sets for human exposure. That factor-of-ten cushion is a source of irritation to the chemical companies that produce and market pesticides, including Dow, and they've been pressing the EPA to recognize the results of human testing - which seem likely to result in looser pesticide standards. That could mean millions in added profits for the chemical industry.

As the world’s largest chemical corporation, Dow stands to profit handsomely if the EPA’s pesticide standards are gutted. That’s why they paid students so lavishly – a full $460 – to swallow their pesticide. Isn’t it great to know that Dow thinks we’re good for something?

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(1) Morris, Jim, “The Stuff in the Backyard Shed,” US News and World Report, 8 November 1999, available at www.getipm.com/newsletter/99-11.htm.

(2) Lester, Stephen, “Chemical Injuries: Industry’s ‘True Lies’ the Politics Behind the Scientific Debate on Dioxin,” Everyone’s Backyard Vol. 13 No. 3, available at http://www.safe2use.com/pesticides/truelies.htm.

(3) Jeff Kart, "Scientific panel rules human pesticide tests are ethical". The Saginaw News, February 20, 2004.





























The international student campaign to hold Dow accountable for Bhopal, and its other toxic legacies around the world.
For more information about the campaign, or for problems regarding this website, contact
Shana Ortman, the US Coordinator for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.
Last updated: April 30, 2008


"The year 2003 was a special year in the history of the campaign for justice in Bhopal. It was the year when student and youth supporters from at least 30 campuses in the US and India took action against Dow Chemical or in support of the demands of the Bhopal survivors. As we enter the 20th year of the unfolding Bhopal disaster, we can, with your support, convey to Dow Chemical that the fight for justice in Bhopal is getting stronger and will continue till justice is done. We look forward to your continued support and good wishes, and hope that our joint struggle will pave the way for a just world free of the abuse of corporate power."

Signed/ Rasheeda Bi, Champa Devi Shukla
Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationery Employees Union
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal