Dow Chemical’s ecological footprints prior to its collaboration with TNC

Since The Dow Chemical Company began its operation in 1897, it has become one of the world’s largest multinational chemical corporations.[1] Dow has expanded its business and networks across the globe, producing specialized chemicals, plastic materials, and agricultural products and services. The history of Dow Chemical reveals that this company has participated in many pollution incidents, court cases, and enforcement actions mandated by US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many environmentalists named Dow as one of the world’s largest polluters because of its lack of environmental oversight.

In 1915, Dow’s Midland facility began discharging chemicals and waste into the Tittabawassee River without any permission.[2] EPA’s assessment of the Midland facility showed that Dow violated three federal environmental laws including the Clean Air Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and Clean Water Act.[3] For nearly a century, hazardous pollutants from that incident have contaminated the groundwater and other natural resources, which negatively impacts wildlife and people who live near the Tittabawassee River. A few decades later, on September 11, 1957, a national catastrophe of radioactive waste leakage occurred at the Rocky Flats facility, managed by Dow from 1951 to 1975.[4] The officials of Dow Chemical and the Department of Energy covered up the environmental and health effects of this incident on the local residents from the public for at least thirteen years. The plutonium contamination of the Denver metro area’s soil and air became top secret in the company’s environmental history.

The other half of the twentieth century was marked by the involvement of Dow in producing chemical compounds that supported the agricultural and military imperialism utilized by the U.S in control of the developing world. In the 1960s, Dow contributed to the production of Agent Orange, a substance that America sprayed over the land of former South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.[5] This substance has stayed in the soil and water sources like rivers and lakes, moved into the food chain, and caused disastrous impacts on natural and human environments for many generations in Vietnam. For the next decades, Dow produced pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers for the imperialist relationship between the U.S and Central American countries. In 2007, Nicaraguans sued Dow for having its pesticide products like DBCP used on banana plantations since the 1970s and 1980s.[6]  As Dow expands its facilities throughout the U.S and over many countries, the company keeps releasing and producing more chemical waste, which causes tremendous damage to human and environmental health.

[1] Katz, Rebecca S. “The corporate crimes of Dow chemical and the failure to regulate environmental pollution.” Critical Criminology 18, no. 4 (2010): 295-306.

[2] Ibid

[3] US Environmental Protection Agency. “Dow Chemical Company Settlement”. Accessed by April 20, 2016 https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/dow-chemical-company-settlement

[4] Cohen, Andrew. “A September 11th Catastrophe You’ve Probably Never Heard About”. The Atlantic.com. Sep 10, 2012. Accessed by May 11, 2016: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/09/a-september-11th-catastrophe-youve-probably-never-heard-about/261959/

[5] Katz, Rebecca S. “The corporate crimes of Dow chemical and the failure to regulate environmental pollution.” Critical Criminology 18, no. 4 (2010): 295-306.

[6] Bohme, Susanna Rankin. Toxic injustice: a transnational history of exposure and struggle. Univ of California Press, 2014.

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