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Jul-26-2012 18:57printcomments

Dow Chemical: a Stain on the Olympics?

In the run up to the Olympics, criticism is mounting of Dow Chemicals' status as a corporate sponsor. Activists claim that victims of chemicals produced by the company span multiple countries and encompass millions.

Dow Chemical Olympic Boycott
AFP Photo

(MOSCOW) - As the Olympics draw nearer, calls have been voiced for Dow Chemical to withdraw from being a corporate sponsor of the event. Members of the Vietnam Women’s Union and the Bhopal Medical Appeal have both submitted requests to the Olympics’ Committee. They argued that it’s inappropriate that a company which manufactured chemical defoliants used during the Vietnam War and bears responsibility for world’s biggest industrial disaster in India was granted sponsorship. Investigative journalist John Pilger explained:

"Dow was named by the US Environmental Protection Agency a few years ago as the world’s second biggest polluter. The evidence for that is all over. Dow was one of the manufacturers of a poison called dioxin which made up Agent Orange, which was dumped literary on Vietnam. And Dow took over Union Carbide, the company that caused the great disaster at Bhopal in India. So it has a double responsibility there for two of the world’s great disasters".

It’s estimated that up to 4.8 million people currently suffer from health problems resulting from Agent Orange. The dire effects of the chemical can also be seen in the deformities of many Vietnamese babies born today. Len Aldis, head of the Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society, described some of those effects:

"The effects of Agent Orange have now troubled into the fourth generation of the Vietnamese people. I have seen babies, 6-month-old, with deformed lags, no hands, sometimes no feet. And these were born after the war which finished in 1975".

Len Aldis told about the response that Vietnam Women’s Union received when it protested Dow’s involvement as a sponsor.

"I made contact with the Vietnam Women’s Union and asked if they would write a letter to the International Olympic Committee. And it replied to them and also sent me a copy of the letter saying Agent Orange was a matter that’s being settled between Vietnam and the American government. Nothing to do with us!"

As current owner of the Union Carbide Corporation, survivors’ group says Dow Chemicals also have an obligation to help victims of the Bhopal disaster in India. The gas leak at one of Union’s carbide factories in 1984 ranks as the worst industrial accident in the world to date, killing thousands of people outright and giving rise to congenital birth defects among successive generations. Tim Edwards, a trustee for the Bhopal Medical Appeal explained:

"Union Carbide is still an outlaw from the Indian justice system where it’s wanted on charges of culpable homicide. And it’s been an outlaw now for 11 years as a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow. And the Dow Chemical company has done nothing to produce the subsidiary in court despite itself being issued with a summons to the court in 2005. The summons was in order to bring into court to explain why it wasn’t producing its subsidiary for trial".

The Olympics Committee has hither refused all appeals to take actions against Dow and remove it from their list of sponsors. In the case of Vietnam they argued it’s a matter of ongoing negotiations between that country and the US. While concerning Bhopal they have been equally adamant in rebuffing appeals. This has not served to quiet Dow’s victims. Tomorrow in Bhopal a special Olympics organized by survivors’ groups will be held a day before the actual event in London. The participants will include people disabled by the industrial disaster.

Special thanks to Mark Shapiro The Voice of Russia Radio

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