Dow Chemical's Toxic Legacy Taints 2012 London Olympics

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July 18, 2012

Dow Chemical's Toxic Legacy Taints 2012 London Olympics

Olympic Partner Refuses to Take Responsibility for Industrial Disaster; 100,000 Continue to Suffer

Contact: Sharon Singh, ssingh@aiusa.org, 202-675-8579, @spksingh

(Washington, D.C.) – Deep in the heart of east London lies the Olympic stadium. Surrounding the 80,000 seat arena is a controversial, $11 million fabric wrap provided by one of the world's largest chemical manufacturers, Dow Chemicals.

While the wrap itself, a series of triangular white panels, looks plain and inoffensive, the chemical giant behind it has a somewhat darker legacy.

Almost 30 years ago, in December 1984, the Indian city of Bhopal was the scene of one of the largest industrial disasters in history. A toxic gas leak at the Union Carbide pesticide plant killed between 7,000 and 10,000 men, women and children in the immediate aftermath. Another 15,000 or so died in the following years, and more than 100,000 are estimated to continue to suffer from serious health problems as a result of the leak.

"Young children are forced to give up school and work because their parents have been affected by the gas," Safreen, a 17-year-old activist, told Amnesty International when the organization recently visited Bhopal.

Since 2001, Dow has been 100% owner of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), the company whose Indian subsidiary operated the Bhopal plant. UCC walked away from Bhopal without cleaning up or disclosing the exact nature of the gas that leaked. No investigation has since been launched into why the leak happened or the impact it has had on people's lives. Survivors have not been given the medical care they need, nor fair compensation.

Despite this, UCC and its owner Dow, continue to deny any responsibility for the ongoing tragedy.

In 2010, the chemical company signed a lucrative deal to become one of the 11 Worldwide Olympic Partners, and the London Organizing Committee for the 2012 Games (LOCOG) denied any connection between Dow Chemical and the Bhopal catastrophe. As organizers prepare for the opening ceremonies next week, the Dow's plastic panels freely sway in the wind.

But away from the fanfare in London, the ongoing disaster in Bhopal continues. Children are born with deformities and illness; fresh air and clean water is scarce. For countless victims, 2012 marks more than three decades of round the clock physical and mental agony.

It's high time Dow took responsibility for almost 30 years of suffering. Amnesty International is calling on the LOCOG to retract its statement denying a connection between Dow Chemicals and the Bhopal catastrophe.

"Bhopal is an ongoing disaster and one of the worst abuses of human rights by a corporation in the last 50 years," said Madhu Malhotra , Amnesty International's director of gender program. "Given the toxic legacy attached to Dow Chemicals, it seems absurd that LOCOG chose this company to sponsor an event billed as the most sustainable Games ever. It’s time they admit their mistake and apologize."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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