In case you haven’t had your dose of reasonable fear this week, let me help you out – here are 8 times corporations accidentally poisoned a whole bunch of people.
#8. Bhopal Disaster
On December 2, 1984, a factory in Bhopal, India, leaked a pesticide gas that spread into nearby neighborhoods. Thousands died instantly as the gas infiltrated their homes and tens of thousands more fled as people dropped dead around them.
Around 600,000 people were exposed, and the estimated death toll was between 3800-16,000 people. A U.S. company was responsible and humanitarian groups claim toxic materials remain buried at the site of the incident.
#7. Michigan Chemical Corporation
In 1973, the company had what sounds like a simple mixup – they shipped their product to the wrong place – but the results were catastrophic and far-reading.
The company made two products – Nutrimaster and Firemaster. Nutrimaster is a supplement put into the food and water sources of livestock in order to increase milk production. Firemaster is an extremely toxic flame retardant. One day someone loaded the wrong product on the truck (they look remarkably similar) and the toxic chemical was delivered to farms all over Michigan.
Animals ingested the product, which meant that it got into the human food supply and affected up to 90% of Michigan’s population. Studies are still be conducted, but it caused medical issues such as genital and urinary tract problems in boys, menstrual problems in girls, and a higher rate of miscarriages in adults.
#6. U.S. Radium Corporation
The U.S. Radium Corporation told the women brushing items with glow-in-the-dark paint that radium was harmless, so they didn’t think twice about sucking on the ends of their paintbrushes to get the finest tip possible. Radium is actually not harmless, it is radioactive, so many of the women fell ill and died from the gruesome symptoms of radiation poisoning. There was a lawsuit, but most of the workers had perished by the time it succeeded in court.
The happiest place on earth it may well be, but for 22 people in August of 2018, that definitely wasn’t the case. Tourists and staff at the New York Hotel at Disneyland Paris experienced nausea and, after some quick investigating, were found to have been poisoned by chlorine gas.
It turned out there was an incorrect mixture of chemicals in the hotel’s pool, which resulted in the release of chlorine gas. Chlorine gas is highly toxic when breathed in – it was used in horrific chemical attacks in WWI. The incident could easily have turned fatal, but, thankfully, luck was with them that day.
#4. Agent Orange
Agent Orange is an herbicide that was used to destroy foliage during the Vietnam War. It’s also a highly cancerous substance that has affected large parts of the Vietnamese population – and continues to today. The Vietnamese have suffered from extremely high rates of birth defects and other illnesses in the decades since, traceable to American use of Agent Orange.
Agent Orange also poisoned people in the U.S. when an explosion in Nitro, West Virginia covered workers in the poisonous toxin. In 2014, Monsanto was forced to pay Nitro $93 million as a result.
#3. Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation
In 1973, the courts ruled against the Fibreboard Paper Products Corporation in the country’s first – but not last – asbestos related case. The company had been using asbestos as insulation without considering the damages it could inflict, which turned out to be vast.
We now know that exposure to asbestos can lead to mesothelioma, a form of cancer, and thousands of people have been affected. Still, some companies did not stop using the product until the 2000s, and there are ongoing pushes to allow the use of asbestos in some cases.
#2. Chisso Corporation
The Chisso Corporation was responsible for slowly poisoning many people between 1938 and 1968 with the mercury-laced runoff into Minamata Bay. The factory was located in the Kumamoto Prefecture in Japan, and it wasn’t until 1956 that a doctor there first noticed a jump in patients suffering damage to their nervous systems – spasms and seizures that sometimes led to death.
PFOAs (perfluoroocatanoic acids) were used in a slew of objects starting in the 1940s, and, even though we became aware in the 1970s of their harmful effect on human beings, they weren’t completely phased out until the courts got involved – in 2015.
In 2001, DuPont’s West Virginia plant released PFOAs into the local water supply, causing illnesses like cancer, thyroid disease, and hypertension, among other things. The local residents sued the company, who settled for $671 million in 2017.
Be safe out there, people. You never know which direction it’s coming from, right?