[Reader-list] Trespass Against Us
geert at desk.nl
Tue Nov 23 14:48:52 IST 2004
From: robert weissman <rob at essential.org>
To: corp-focus at lists.essential.org <corp-focus at lists.essential.org>
Subject: [corp-focus] Trespass Against Us
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2004 17:39:49 -0500
Trespass Against Us:
Twenty Things to Know About Dow Chemical on the 20th Anniversary of Bhopal
By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
Let's assume for a second, as the law does, that a corporation is a person.
If a corporation is a person, then how come we don't see biographies of
We're not talking about "official" biographies -- those written by
people in the pocket of the corporation.
Of course they exist.
By why not warts-and-all biographies of major American corporations?
Like -- the Life and Times of General Motors?
Actually, a historian by the name of Brad Snell has been working for
years on such a biography about General Motors -- warts and all. He says
he's almost finished.
In 1974, Gerard Colby Zilg wrote a book titled "DuPont: Behind the Nylon
Curtain," which was a biography of DuPont Corporation -- warts and all.
Zilg claimed that his publisher, under pressure from DuPont, buried the
book -- and it went nowhere.
Now comes Jack Doyle.
Doyle is trying to make a career out of writing critical corporate
In 2002, under contract with the Environmental Health Fund, Doyle wrote
his first corporate biography, titled Riding the Dragon: Royal Dutch
Shell & The Fossil Fire.
Now, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, Doyle
is out with Trespass Against Us: Dow Chemical and the Toxic Century
(Common Courage Press, 2004).
At midnight on December 2, 1984, 27 tons of lethal gases leaked from
Union Carbide's pesticide factory in Bhopal, India, immediately killing
an estimated 8,000 people and poisoning thousands of others.
Today in Bhopal, at least 150,000 people, including children born to
parents who survived the disaster, are suffering from exposure-related
health effects such as cancer, neurological damage, chaotic menstrual
cycles and mental illness.
Over 20,000 people are forced to drink water with unsafe levels of
mercury, carbon tetrachloride and other persistent organic pollutants
and heavy metals.
Activists from around the world -- including human rights, legal,
environmental health and other experts -- are mobilizing over the next
two weeks to demand that Dow Chemical, the current owner of Union
Carbide, be held accountable.
Here we are 20 years after this disaster, and the company responsible
for this catastrophe and its former executives are still fugitives from
justice. Union Carbide and its former chairman, Warren Andersen, were
charged with manslaughter for the deaths at Bhopal, but they refuse to
appear before the Indian courts.
Many events worldwide are taking place to coincide with the 20th
anniversary, including the release of Doyle's book-length rap sheet
Doyle took the title of his book "Trespass Against Us" from Lord's prayer:
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
We asked Doyle if he was urging humanity -- those who have been polluted
by Dow chemicals -- to forgive Dow for its trespass against us.
"Not at all," Doyle said. "By using the 'trespass against us' phrase, I
am trying to make visible the invisible -- trying to show that there are
boundary lines being violated daily by toxic substances. Corporations
are making a profit on the invasion of my personal space, my biology.
They are not controlling the full costs of their operation, and we are
picking up the tab for their externalities in form of disease, illness,
lower immunity, altered reproduction, birth defects, cancer. That's not
right. That's a mortal trespass, an unforgivable transgression that must
be stopped. We are certainly not calling on consumers to ask that
companies be forgiven -- quite the opposite. They need to be prosecuted.
Companies like Dow are getting away with biological trespass daily."
And his book documents this.
In honor of the dead and dying in Bhopal, we urge you to buy Doyle's
book. Every time you use common plastic items, think of the destruction.
Every time you use Saran Wrap (originally a Dow product), question the
And in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the crime of Bhopal, we
present here 20 things to remember about Dow Chemical -- the company now
responsible for Bhopal and a fugitive from justice.
20. Agent Orange/Napalm -- The toxic herbicide and jellied gasoline used
in Vietnam created horrors for young and old alike -- and an uproar back
home that forced Dow to rethink its public relations strategy.
19. Rocky Flats -- The top secret Colorado site managed by Dow Chemical
from 1952 to 1975 that is an environmental nightmare for the Denver area.
18. Body burden -- In March 2001, the Centers for Disease Control
reported that most Americans carry detectable levels of plastics,
pesticides and heavy metals in their blood and urine.
17. 2,4-D -- An herbicide produced by Dow Chemical. It is still in use
today. Used for killing lawn weeds, crop weeds, range weeds, along
utility company rights-of way, railroads. One of the key ingredients in
Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used in Vietnam. 2,4-D is the most
widely used herbicide in the world.
16. Mercury -- In Canada, Dow had been producing chlorine using the
mercury cell method since 1947. Much of the mercury was recycled, but
significant quantities were discharged into the environment through air
emissions, water discharges, waste sludge and in end products. In March
1970, the governments of Ontario and Michigan detected high levels of
mercury in the fish in the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, the Detroit
River and Lake Erie. Dow was sued by state and local officials for
15. PERC -- Perchloroethylene, the hazardous substance used by dry
cleaners everywhere. Dow tried to undermine safer alternatives.
14. 2,4,5 T -- One of the toxic ingredients in Agent Orange. Doyle says
that "Dow just fought tooth and nail over this chemical -- persisted
every way it could in court and with the agencies, at the state and
federal levels, to buy more time for this product. They went into a
court in Arkansas in the early 1970s to challenge the EPA administrator.
They did that to buy some extra marketing time, and they got two years,
even though it appears that Dow knew this chemical was a bad actor by
then, caused birth defects in lab animals, and was also being found in
human body fat by then. But it wasn't until 1983 that Dow quit making
2,4,5-T in the U.S., and 1987 before they quit production in New
Zealand. And 2,4,5-T health effects litigation continues to this day."
13. Busting unions -- In 1967, unions represented almost all of Dow's
production workers. But since then, according to the Metal Trades
Department of the AFL-CIO, Dow undertook an "unapologetic campaign to
rid itself of unions."
12. Silicone -- Key ingredient for silicone breast implants, made by a
joint venture between Dow and Corning (Dow Corning). Made women large,
but also made them sick. Ongoing illness and litigation.
11. DBCP -- Toxic active ingredient in Dow pesticide Fumazone. Doctors
who tested men who worked with DBCP thought they had vasectomies -– no
10. Dursban -- Chlorpyrifos, a toxic pesticide, a product that proved to
have the nerve agent effects that Rachel Carson warned about. Also
tested on prisoners in New York in 1971 and in 1998 at a lab in Lincoln,
Nebraska. Took over for DDT when DDT was banned in 1972. Huge seller. In
June 2000, EPA limits use.
9. Dow at Christmas -- "Uses of Dow plastics by the toy industry are
across the board," boasted Dow Chemical in an internal company memo one
Christmas season -- "and more and more of our materials are found under
the Christmas tree and on the birthday table, make some child, some toy
company, and Dow, very happy indeed." Among the chemicals used in these
toys -- polystyrene, polyethylene, ethylene copolymer resins, saran
resins, PVC resins, or vinyls and ethyl cellulose. And a Happy New Year.
8.The Tittabawassee -- River and river basin polluted by Dow in its
hometown, Midland, Michigan.
7. Brazos River, Freeport, Texas -- February 1971 headline in the
Houston Post read: "Brazos River is Dead." In 1970 and 1971, Dow's
operation there was sending more than 4.5 billion gallons of wastewater
per day into the Brazos and on into the Gulf of Mexico.
6. Toxic Trespass -- Doyle writes: "Dow Chemical has been polluting
property and poisoning people for nearly a century, locally and globally
-- trespassing on workers, consumers, communities, and innocent
bystanders -- on wildlife and wild places, on the global biota and the
global genome. ... Dow Chemical must end its toxic trespass."
5. Holmesburg Experiments -- In January 1981, a Philadelphia Inquirer
story reveals that Dow Chemical paid a University of Pennsylvania
dermatologist to test dioxin on prisoners at Holmesburg Prison in
Philadelphia. Tests were conducted in 1964. Seventy inmates tested.
4. Worker deaths -- Dow has a long history of explosions and fires at
its facilities, well documented by Doyle in Trespass Against Us. One
example, in May 1979: an explosion ripped through Dow Chemical's
Pittsburgh facility, killing two workers and injuring more than 45 others.
3. Brain tumors -- In 1980, investigators found 25 brain workers with
brain tumors at the company's Freeport, Texas facility -- 24 of which
2. Saran Wrap -- The thin slice of plastic invaluable to our lives.
Produced by Dow until consumers were looking for Dow products to
boycott. Dow decided to get out of consumer products for this reason --
they sold off Saran Wrap -- and since just makes chemicals that make our
1. Bhopal -- Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our
trespasses, as we seek to bring to justice those who trespass against us.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime
Reporter, http://www.corporatecrimereporter.com. Robert Weissman is
editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor,
http://www.multinationalmonitor.org. They are co-authors of the
forthcoming On the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of
Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press;
(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
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