Twenty-five years ago, a Union Carbide pesticide factory exploded in Bhopal, India, releasing a toxic cloud that killed thousands in its wake. More than 8,000 people died within the first three days of the disaster, while more than 500,000 were exposed to toxic gases that invaded their lungs and spread throughout their bodies. For this reason, Bhopal has been called the Hiroshima of the Chemical Industry.
Twenty-five years later the abandoned factory has still not been cleaned up, but continues to leak poisons into neighborhood groundwater. A recent report by the Bhopal Medical Appeal found dangerous levels of heavy metal and persistent chemicals in the groundwater. Union Carbide executives have never been brought to trial in India, despite attempts by the Indian government to extradite them. And although Union Carbide was bought by Dow Chemical in 2001, the parent company claims no responsibility for cleaning up the mess left behind and has not submitted itself to the Indian criminal case. Rather than addressing its ongoing liabilities in Bhopal, Dow has spent tens of millions on its Human Element ad campaign, which portrays the chemical company as people-focused and caring.
The world has learned a lot about the chemical industry since the Bhopal disaster. We now know that many of the industry’s products are linked to a broad array of diseases in the general population, including asthma, cancer, birth defects, infertility, Parkinson’s disease, endometriosis, obesity and diabetes. Rather than internalizing the consequences of pollution, the industry has externalized health and social costs onto individuals and the American healthcare system, which is being crushed under the weight of ballooning costs, chronic disease and misaligned priorities.
[Read more at Alternet]