Greenpeace calls on Hindustan Lever to Address Liabilities in Kodaikanal.

Rainbow Warrior resumes her campaign under 'house arrest'

Press release - December 8, 2003
MUMBAI, India — As part of their ongoing Corporate Accountability Tour of India, Greenpeace, on board their beseiged ship Rainbow Warrior, today released a report detailing the mercury contamination from the Hindustan Lever Limited ( a subsidiary of the Anglo-dutch corporation, Unilever) thermometer factory at Kodaikanal.

The new technical report, "Atmospheric dispersal of mercury from the HLL thermometer factory, Tamil Nadu, India using lichen as a

bio-monitor" by the Greenpeace Research Laboratories, UK demonstrates the spread of mercury through the atmosphere to areas that an earlier assessment commissioned by HLL had failed to investigate. These include Bombay Shola,Vattakanal Shola and a residential area some way from the factory.

"It's absolutely imperative that the company conducts a thorough, scientific decontamination of the site and its surroundings, further afield than they planned to, and to standards far more stringent than they propose," said Ruth Stringer, Senior Scientist of the Greenpeace Research Lab., and co-author of this report. Greenpeace's lichen analysis in the Bombay Shola forest showed upto 1.99 mg/kg of mercury. She added, "We're demanding that HLL cleans up not

just their factory premises, but also the areas surrounding the site, and the homes of the workers whose contaminated clothes and shoes could have taken the mercury out of the factory premises and into the lives of their families."

Common symptoms reported by workers include fatigue, headaches, nausea and other stomach dysfunctions, giddiness, blurring of vision, skin complaints including burns and dermatitis, respiratory disorders, kidney dysfunction.Central nervous system effects were also reported including loss of memory, tremors, depression and mood changes. A number of workers were reported to have suffered from epileptic seizures after commencing work at the factory .

Many of the reported symptoms match known effects that can result for exposure to metallic mercury through inhalation and dermal absorption.

"By now, 13 people have died from diseases known to be caused by mercury exposure," said S. Raja Mohamed, Secretary of the Ponds-HLL ex-mercury employees Association, "The latest casualty was Mr. Britto, who succumbed to kidney failure on October 7th, 2003. HLL meanwhile, remains unmoved, and continues to deny any health impact on workers. Only those workers who were on the rolls till the last day of the factory's operations have received their medical records so far, and no-one has received any compensation of any kind!"

Ameer Shahul, Greenpeace Campaigner, adds, "Apart from ignoring its liabilities towards the community and the environment, HLL is yet to commit to retire the merury recovered from the site, to prevent its reuse. The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) ordered HLL to export its mercury-laden waste to the US and to produce a detailed plan for cleanup of contaminated soils, structures, and machinery from the plant, which needs to be disabled and decontaminated."

"This is precisely the kind of corporate crime that Rainbow Warrior is here to expose. Whether at the shipbreaking yards of Alang or in the pristine forests of Kodaikanal, we will continue to confront corporations that neglect their responsibilities towards the environment and the communities they operate in. I cannot imagine that Unilever would ever be allowed to get away so easily in the

Netherlands," said Cosmo Wassenaar, Captain of the Rainbow Warrior.

A delegation of Greenpeace activists, ex-workers from the Hindustan Lever thermometer factory and residents of Kodaikanal also visited the corporate headquarters of Hindustan Lever Limited in Mumbai along with journalists, to present a letter to the HLL management, demanding:

· A comprehensive epidemiological health survey of ex-employees, their families, and local residents of Kodaikanal, to be conducted by a team of independent researchers.

· A thorough decontamination of the site and its surroundings, to levels of mercury no higher than 0.3mg / kg of soil.

· An assurance that they mercury-laden soil that will be recovered will be returned to the United States, where it came from originally, instead of being stored in the plains of India as the company proposed initially.

· Compensation to be provided to all ex-employees suffering from mercury-exposure related diseases, and to the next of kin of those who have died from the same.

The Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior is currently on a month-long Corporate Accountability tour of India and is scheduled to set sail from Mumbai for Cochin on the 9th of November 2003.

For further details, including an update on the company's response to this letter, please contact :

Namrata Chowdhary, Media Officer, Greenpeace India +91 9810850092;