In October of 2002, Dow Chemical’s subsidiary, Union Carbide, was found liable by a West Virginia court for several thousand asbestos-related deaths. 2000 plaintiffs claimed to have been exposed in one of Union Carbide’s plants in which asbestos insulation was frequently employed; others alleged exposure from one of the numerous asbestos products produced by this company up until 1985.
Representatives of the company argued that the “calidria” form of asbestos used in their joint compound and other products was “safe”, and therefore could not have lead to a diagnosis of asbestosis, a condition of scaring within the lungs, or mesothelioma, a rare form of asbestos cancer that is almost always fatal within two years. In fact, a medical study performed at the Department of Pathology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1996 demonstrated that:
“Calidria chrysotile fibers are mutagenic and are able to mediate transfection of molecularly marked mutant lacI genes in a manner that results in their preferential recombination with homologous wild-type genes in the transfected cell..”
In essence, there was little difference between “calidira” – which was basically common chysolite asbestos – and other varieties of asbestos fiber.
A Poor Record
In 1979, Dow was a named defendant in a class-action suit which claimed that the company withheld information about the toxicity of dioxin – a primary ingredient of Agent Orange, to which U.S. soldiers were exposed in Vietnam. In 1984, its current subsidiary, Union Carbide, was responsible for 20,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries in Bhopal, India when its factory leaked toxic gases into the local environment. As of November 2004 – twenty years after the tragedy – Bhopal residents have not been adequately compensated, nor have there been consequences for the corporations involved.
Dow Chemical, whose motto was “Better Living Through Chemicals,” is the tenth worst corporate polluter in the U.S., releasing over 700,000 tons of toxic gases into the atmosphere each year. EPA records show that Dow is one of the top ten corporations responsible for Superfund toxic sites.
Although a corporation which acquires another corporation incurs the latter’s liabilities at the time of acquisition, Dow denies such liabilities on the part of Union Carbide, which has been a wholly-owned subsidiary since 2001.
Dow Chemical is also a member of the “Asbestos Study Group,” the members of which include General Electric, Honeywell and General Motors. The group spent $23 million dollars lobbying members of Congress to pass Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter’s “FAIR” Act (SB 3274) (10). This legislation would have denied asbestos victims the right to sue. The bill died in committee in 2006.
If you have suffered as a result of asbestos exposure at a Dow Chemical Plant, you’ll need thorough documentation of when, where, and how the exposure took place and what specific asbestos products were involved. In addition, you’ll need an irrefutable diagnosis of mesothelioma from a qualified oncologist; since asbestos is the only known, proven cause of malignant mesothelioma, defense attorneys will often attempt to show the court that the disease was misdiagnosed.