The group INFACT contends that Dow's role in influencing public policy may be hampered by its merger with Union Carbide, which saw its pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, release deadly gases, killing an estimated 4,000 people and injuring 200,000 more in 1984.
"Joining forces with Union Carbide, a corporation with such a history of blatant disregard for people and the environment, raises major questions whether Dow is, in fact, headed in the right direction," INFACT Executive Director Kathryn Mulvey said.
Dow spokeswoman Anne Ainsworth said the required "quiet period" following an announcement of a pending merger precludes her from commenting on how EHS policies of the two companies will be integrated. However, she indicated, Dow's EHS efforts will not be altered.
"Our commitment to the environment remains unchanged. Dow has always been and will continue to be committed to the environment," Ainsworth said. "Our goal at Dow is to eliminate all injuries, prevent adverse environmental and health impacts, reduce waste and emissions, and promote resource conservation at every step."
INFACT has had recent dialogue with Dow to seek assurances the company is making positive changes toward limiting its political influence. This dialogue followed Dow's "induction" into INFACT's Hall of Shame in 1996 for interfering in legislation to protect the public and the environment.
The watchdog group is fairly favorable of Dow's EHS record since then, but is worried about how much influence Union Carbide could have on Dow"s EHS policies.
"By choosing to join forces with Union Carbide, Dow takes on the responsibility for the appalling history that accompanies Union Carbide," Mulvey said. "Dow must take control with immediate actions to answer concerns about the direction of the corporation: Is Dow taking over Union Carbide, or is Union Carbide going to take over Dow?"
Union Carbide has fought disclosure requirements related to its pesticides, INFACT contends. In addition, the company previously operated nuclear weapons facilities at Paducah, Ky., and Oak Ridge, Tenn., that have come under recent public scrutiny regarding possible worker exposure to radiation.