December 3rd marked the 20th anniversary of the world's worst chemical spill at the Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India.. Twenty-seven tons of methyl isocyanate, one of the most toxic and lethal substances known to humans, filled the air in the populous village, causing death, lung injuries, immune disorders, gynecological problems, mental illness, and chromosomal damage. Since Union Carbide didn't issue any safety information regarding potential leaks, the city was ill-prepared for the emergency and over 8,000 people were killed instantly, with another 50,000 suffering permanent disabilities, many of them life-threatening.
While Union Carbide initially accepted 'moral responsibility' for the disaster, it quickly shifted the blame towards worker sabotage and away from the lax safety standards and personnel shortages that led to the leak. The company's subsequent efforts to clean up the area were also grossly inadequate, leaving large quantities of mercury and toxic chemicals that still seep into the ground water and adversely affect Bhopal's residents.
In 2001, Union Carbide merged with Dow Chemical, which accepted legal responsibility for its toxic legacy. Like Union Carbide, however, Dow has done little for the region. The company recently agreed to compensation averaging roughly $500 per victim, but these funds have only begun to address a fraction of the devastated city's medical and economic woes. By refusing to correct its toxic past in India, Dow has attracted the attention of activists worldwide who hope to hold the corporation accountable for the death and devastation it has helped create.
Go there >>International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal
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