Dow Chemical Company

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox Company

The Dow Chemical Company Template:Nyse is a multinational corporation headquartered in Midland, Michigan, USA. In terms of market capitalization, it is the second-largest chemical company in the world, only smaller than DuPont.

Contents

Products

Dow is the world's largest producer of plastics including polystyrene, polyurethanes, polyethylene terephthalate, polypropylene, and synthetic rubbers. It is also a major producer of the chemicals calcium chloride, and ethylene oxide, as well as various acrylates, surfactants, and cellulose resins. It produces many agricultural chemicals, perhaps being most famous for its pesticide Lorsban. On the consumer level, its most well-known products include Saran wrap, Ziploc bags (which now have been sold to SC Johnson), Styrofoam and Silly Putty.

History

The Dow Chemical Company was founded in 1897 by Herbert Henry Dow in order to extract chlorides and bromides from brine deposits under Midland, Michigan. Its initial products included bromine and bleach. Even in its early history, the company set a tradition of rapidly diversifying its product line. Within twenty years, Dow had become a major producer of agricultural chemicals, elemental chlorine, phenol and other dyestuffs, and magnesium metal.

In the 1930s, Dow began production of plastic resins, which would grow to become one of the corporation's major businesses. Its first plastic products were ethylcellulose which was made in 1935 and polystyrene made in 1937.

In 1930, Dow built its first plant to produce magnesium extracted from seawater rather than underground brine. Growth of this business made Dow a strategically important business during World War II, as magnesium became important in fabricating lightweight parts for airplanes. Also during the war, Dow and Corning began their joint venture Dow Corning to produce silicones for military and later civilian use.

In the postwar era, Dow began expanding overseas, founding its first foreign subsidiary in Japan in 1952, with several other nations following rapidly thereafter. Based largely on its growing plastics business, it opened a consumer products division beginning with Saran wrap in 1953. Based on its growing chemicals and plastics businesses, Dow's sales exceeded $1 billion in 1964, $2 billion in 1971, and $10 billion in 1980.

In September 2004, Dow obtained the naming rights of the Saginaw County Event Center in nearby Saginaw, Michigan, and the facility's new name is now The Dow Event Center. The deal is worth $10 Million, and is said to last until 2014. The center houses the OHL ice hockey team, Saginaw Spirit.

Today, Dow is the world's largest producer of plastics, and with its 1999 acquisition of Union Carbide has become a major player in the petrochemical industry as well.

Controversies

During the Vietnam War, Dow assisted the United States' military effort by producing the incendiary napalm and the herbicide Agent Orange. Negative health effects from exposure to these chemicals resulted in lawsuits for many years thereafter. It should also be noted that some of Dow's earliest chemical products were also useful for synthesis of explosives, i.e. ethylcellulose.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, consumer groups began publicizing that Dow Corning's silicone breast implants caused numerous health problems including breast cancer, autoimmune diseases including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and various neurological problems. This led to numerous lawsuits beginning in 1984 and culminating in a 1998 class action settlement in which tens of thousands of plaintiffs accepted a $3.2 billion award. In 1999, however, an independent review of all previous research on the issue concluded that the implants, even when ruptured, caused no major health problems beyond local hardening or scarring of the breasts. The issue remains contentious, mostly because the aforementioned review could not address the scope of claims of injury due to ruptured implants, for example, the health impact on an unborn child.

Dow has also become the target of an international campaign seeking justice for the victims of the world's worst-ever industrial disaster, the 1984 chemical leak in Bhopal, India. The leak, which Amnesty International estimates has killed at least 22,000 thus far, occurred at a plant owned and operated by Union Carbide, now a wholly-owned Dow subsidiary. According to US, Indian and international corporate law, Carbide's liabilities were assumed by Dow in its 2001 purchase of Carbide. Currently two court cases are pending against Carbide: a civil suit in New York, filed in 1999, seeking damages and remediation for environmental contamination, and a criminal case in Bhopal, where the Union Carbide Corporation is charged with "culpable homicide" (or manslaughter) and faces a fine which has no upper limit.

Dow's refusal to accept or even acknowledge its liabilities in Bhopal, as well as its other well-known liabilities linked to Nemagon (in Nicaragua) and dioxin (in Michigan) have helped inspire the first mass student movement against the company since the Vietnam War. Students at 70 schools on five continents are involved in the campaign, and are demanding that their schools divest and refuse future donations from the company until it resolves all of its legal and moral responsibilities in Bhopal.

Starting in the early 2000s, residents living on the Tittabawassee River near the company's headquarters in Midland and nearby Saginaw counties in Michigan filed a class-action lawsuit against the company for dioxin contamination (levels of dioxins were found above those allowed by the DEQ) in the soil on the riverbed and along its shores. As of March 2005, the issue is still unresolved.

External links

Further reading

  • Jack Doyle. (2004). "Trespass Against Us: Dow Chemical and the Toxic Century." Common Courage Press. ISBN 1567512682
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