By Russell Mokhiber
and Robert Weissman
24 November, 2004
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 corporations?
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
Now comes Jack Doyle.
Doyle is trying
to make a career out of writing critical corporate biographies.
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
Over 20,000 people
are forced to drink water with unsafe levels of mercury, carbon tetrachloride
and other persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals.
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
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
Many events worldwide
are taking place to coincide with the 20th anniversary, including the
release of Doyle's book-length rap sheet against Dow.
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
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 consequences.
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
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 mercury pollution.
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 sperm present.
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.
-- 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 were fatal.
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 consumer products.
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.
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
They are co-authors of the forthcoming On
the Rampage: Corporate Predators and the Destruction of Democracy (Monroe,
Maine: Common Courage Press; http://www.corporatepredators.org).
© 2004 Russell
Mokhiber and Robert Weissman