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Brazil Court Fines Shell, Basf for Making Workers Sick

The plant was built in 1977 by Shell… Dozens of former employees of the plant have been diagnosed with prostate, thyroid and other types of cancer, circulatory, liver and intestinal illnesses, as well as infertility and sexual impotence, the statement added.

Caracas, Saturday August 21,2010

SAO PAULO – A Brazilian court has ordered the local units of Basf SE and Royal Dutch Shell Plc to pay 1.1 billion reais ($628 million) to cover the cost of medical treatment and compensation for former workers made ill by toxic substances.

The sentence, which can be appealed, was handed down by Judge Maria Ines Correa de Cerqueira Cesar of the labor court in Paulinia, Sao Paulo state, where a pesticide plant operated between 1977-2002.

The judge ordered the companies to pay the cost of medical treatment for all of plant’s former workers, as well as for the children of employees or contractors who were born during or after the time their parents worked at the factory.

Each of the beneficiaries of the court’s ruling is to receive 64,500 reais ($36,860) and the companies also must pay 622.2 million reais ($355 million) in collective compensation for “moral damages,” to be deposited in the Worker Protection Fund.

“The companies must assume an approximate total cost of 1.1 billion reais,” the judge said.

The two companies also were given five days beginning Thursday to publish a statement on TV networks inviting former workers and their descendants to present health records showing they were affected by the contamination, while Basf also must do the same in a pair of large-circulation dailies on two Sundays.

The Labor Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement that more than 1,000 workers at the plant and hundreds of their relatives will benefit from the ruling.

The plant was built in 1977 by Shell and sold in 1994 to American Cyanamid. That latter company was acquired in 2002 by Germany’s Basf, which closed the plant two years later.

Following initial complaints, soil studies confirmed that the area’s subsoil water had been contaminated by highly carcinogenic substances and significant quantities of chromium, vanadium and zinc.

Dozens of former employees of the plant have been diagnosed with prostate, thyroid and other types of cancer, circulatory, liver and intestinal illnesses, as well as infertility and sexual impotence, the statement added. EFE

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