Mercury Poisoning in a Kodai Foothills (India) Village


A reddit user, using a throwaway account (anonymous type of posting account), reported that their village in the Kodai Foothills has seen 250 cancer deaths in the last 5 years, 8500% higher than the national mortality rate .

Hindustan Lever closed a factory in the region after it was revealed that it had been dumping mercury waste illegally . Mercury contamination of Kodaikkanal has been documented by a 2006 article in the “Environmental Pollution” journal .

It has already been established that workers in this factory are suffering serious conditions as a result of their exposure – and Unilever has done nothing to compensate them.

The factory, producing mercury thermomenters, was relocated from Watertown, New York to the site in Kodaikanal in 1983 by Ponds (acuired by Hindustan Lever in 1986) – “To get permission to construct the factory in a residential locality abutting an ecosensitive area, the company assured regulators that the factory was non-polluting.” Unilever claimed that factory damaged neither the environment outside the factory nor workers health .

“In what environmental activists in India are hailing as a major victory, tons of hazardous waste from an abandoned thermometer factory owned by India’s largest consumer products company, Hindustan Lever Ltd., is heading to a recycling plant in the United States for safe disposal. – The New York Times”.

The picture which emerges here is a bizarre one where a factory was re-located from New York to Kodaikanal in 1983 because of increased awareness in the US of the dangers of mercury poisoning, assurances were made that it would not cause damage to people or environment. The factory operated in Kodaikanal for around 15 years until it was revealed to be releasing mercury into the locality and public pressure caused Hindustan Lever to shut the factory down and, two years later, ship mercury waste back to New York for treatment (India had no suitable facilities). Hindustan Lever made no efforts to compensate workers who suffered exposure from working at the factory, and now it appears that longer-term effects are being felt by residents of a village in the area who are suffering an alarmingly high cancer mortality rate.


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Eric Write head editor and chief at The Pluto Daily