Dow, Bhopal and the $1bn push for damages

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The Independent Online

At 12.05am on 3 December 1984, 27 tons of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from the Union Carbide factory in the middle of Bhopal. Hundreds of thousands of people and animals were exposed to the poisonous gas as a result of catastrophic safety failures.

Around 10,000 people died, and another 15,000 are believed to have died in the aftermath. More than half a million people were left with chemical-related injuries.

In 2001, Dow Chemical, which manufactured Agent Orange and napalm used by the US in Vietnam, bought Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), the majority shareholder and financial controller of Union Carbide India – which operated the Bhopal factory.

Dow says that the $490m settlement by UCC in 1991 to compensate gas victims was final. The Indian government is currently seeking between $600m (£388m) and $1.24bn from Dow and UCC in the Supreme Court. Dow's sponsorship deal with the International Olympic Committee is worth $1bn.

Dow says that it did not inherit UCC's liabilities as they exist as separate legal entities, and that the legal claims were settled before it acquired Union Carbide.