The Multinational Monitor

March 15, 1986 - VOLUME 7 - NUMBER 5


Union Carbide Is Off the Hook in Institute, W. VA.

Union Carbide will pay less than $5,000 for the chemical leak that sent 135 residents of Institute, West Virginia, to the hospital last summer, the Reagan administration ruled in mid-March.

Officials of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) originally proposed fining the company $32,100 for what it said at the time constituted "willful violation" of government safety regulations. Twenty-eight Institute residents and six plant workers were sent to hospital emergency rooms in August 1985 after a tank ruptured and sent thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals into the air.

Following the leak, OSHA charged Union Carbide with five violations, including exposing employees to the danger of the leak, failing to prevent air contamination, and not providing enough respirators to workers in the plant. vBut after Union Carbide contested the fines, arguing that the violations had been "inadvertent," the agency backed down. The company now faces fines of $4,400 for three "serious" violations. OSHA officials said the decision to reduce penalties was made in exchange for Union Carbide's promise to correct the errors it made last August. A spokesman for the company said recently that the corrections have been made.

Committee Forming to Represent Dalkon Shield Victims

Three reported victims of the Dalkon Shield have been appointed to a panel of five that will investigate charges against the manufacturer of the contraceptive device.

The three women, who claim they were injured through use of the intrauterine contraceptive, will represent more than 200,000 women in over 80 countries who have filed claims against A.H. Robins Co., the company that makes the Dalkon Shield.

The new panel replaces a previous committee of 38 plaintiffs' lawyers, which was dissolved by judicial order March 4, 1986 after a trustee for the Robins company argued it had become "unmanageable."

According to claims filed against the Robins Co., women who used the Shield suffered pelvic infections, sterility, spontaneous abortions, and death. The company suspended sales of the Dalkon Shield in the United States in June, 1974 under intense pressure from physicians and the Food and Drug Administration. The company continued to market the contraceptive overseas for at least nine months after halting distribution in the United States. Robins did not attempt a recall of the Shield until October 1984.

Since 1974, over $510 million has been paid out to dispose of cases filed against the Robins Co. (See A Crime Against Women: A.H. Robbins and the Dalkon Shield, Multinational Monitor, January 15, 1986.)

AGS Admits Wrongdoing

Advanced Genetic Sciences has admitted it acted with "real lack of wisdom" when it released a geneticallyengineered microbe into the environment without federal approval more than nine months ago.

The California genetics company was scheduled to conduct the world's first field test of a biological pesticide last November 14, but opposition from local authorities in Salinas, California stopped the experiment. (See Genetic Roulette, Multinational Monitor, February 28, 1986.)

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