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Investors Urge Dow to Take Responsiblity for Bhopal

Letter Sent to Parker, Stavropoulos on Opening Day of Salomon Smith Barney Chemical Conference
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal,
December 4th, 2002

NEW YORK - A group of socially responsible investment funds, with assets valued at $13 billion, are urging Dow Chemical Company to address ongoing economic, health and environmental liabilities stemming from a poisonous gas leak in Bhopal, India, which has killed and injured tens of thousands of people to date. The investors, Trillium Asset Management, Domini Social Investments, Calvert Group and others, sent a letter to Dow"s CEO Michael Parker and board Chair William Stavropoulos, calling on them to "continue dialogue with representatives of Bhopal citizens groups, to take their claims seriously, and to work towards a mutually acceptable solution."

The letter comes as the chemical industry gathers in New York for the two-day 13th annual Salomon Smith Barney Chemical Conference, which will feature a presentation by Parker. "I can't think of a more fitting occasion to deliver this letter at a conference to discuss the future of the chemical industry in the U.S.," said Steve Lippman of Trillium Asset Management. "On the 18th anniversary of arguably the worlds' largest industrial disaster, and at a time when the public has never been more concerned about corporate responsibility, Dow must address the ongoing problems of the citizens of Bhopal, where even after all these years children born to survivors suffer debilitating illnesses, and mothers exposed to contaminated drinking water carry mercury in their breast milk."

In February 2001, Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide, the owners of the pesticide plant in Bhopal in 1984, the year of the disaster. In January of this year Dow settled asbestos lawsuits filed against Union Carbide in the United States -- part of the liabilities it assumed as a result of the Carbide buyout -- but it has so far refused to take any responsibility for the pending liabilities connected to the Bhopal disaster, which include a Class Action in New York and an ongoing criminal case in the Indian courts. Following the asbestos litigation, Dow's stock fell a dramatic 7 billion dollars due to investor fears of further damages.

Publicly, Dow continues to insist that Union Carbide had completely satisfied the Indian courts and that no legal issues remain outstanding. "In fact", Gary Cohen of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal said today, "a warrant for the arrest of Carbide's ex-CEO Warren Anderson on charges of "culpable homicide" has been out since 1992, charges reaffirmed by the Central Magistrates Court, Bhopal, in August. And in October, India's Home Affairs Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister confirmed that India will formally ask for Anderson's extradition from the U.S." In what was a poor month for the company, India's Central Bureau of Investigation also announced that it would move to name Dow Chemical Accused #10 in the Bhopal criminal case in place of Union Carbide. The Indian State of Madhya Pradesh, of which Bhopal is the capital, followed this by saying that it would ask the Indian Courts to compel Dow Chemical to pay for the clean-up of the contamination polluting the soil and ground water around the abandoned factory.

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal has long been pressing Union Carbide and now Dow to provide for adequate health care for gas survivors, and to clean up the abandoned factory site. Two days ago, on the 18th anniversary of the disaster, a procession through central Bombay delivered contaminated soil and water from the site to Dow Chemical's headquarters in India. The procession, led by more than 200 Bhopali women, also delivered 4,000 brooms to the company alongside the message, "Dow, Clean Up Your Mess."

Dow, whose $28 billion in annual sales make it the world's largest chemical manufacturer, has recently associated itself with a number of prominent "sustainable development" initiatives, including the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the chemical industry's own "Responsible Care" programme of self-regulation. Ironically, Responsible Care -- developed through a partnership of Union Carbide and Dow in the immediate aftermath of the Bhopal disaster "has, as one of its abiding principles, the promise "to work with others to resolve problems associated with past handling and disposal practices".

The poisonous gas leak at the Bhopal pesticide factory in 1984 left 8,000 people dead within three days. To date, more than 20,000 have died from ongoing health problems associated with exposure to the lethal gases, and up to 150,000 survivors are chronically ill. Much of the abandoned factory remains, with tons of toxic chemicals left on site, leaching into the soil and contaminating some of the communities' drinking water. Survivors do not have adequate health care, and received an average of USD$500 each from a settlement negotiated by the Indian government with Union Carbide without the survivors' consent.

Contacts: Steve Lippman, Trillium, (415) 392 4806;
Gary Cohen, ICJB, (617) 524-6018
Casey Harrell, Greenpeace, (202) 319-2497.>

To view the letter from Trillium, click here.