Kept in dark - HLL

Published: Wednesday 31 October 2001

Hindustan Lever Limited's (HLL) factory located at Kodaikanal, which was closed due to reckless management of hazardous waste, is embroiled in yet another controversy. Now its former employees are demanding their health records. But the management is adamant about not complying with the workers' request. The workers had recently written to the authorities to make the records public, which were inaccessible throughout their tenure. "The company never provided us with the results of our medical tests conducted in the past 18 years. To complete a long-term record, which is necessary for a medical assessment, the reports should be provided to us," wrote Thiru Mahendra Babu, president of the former employees' union. However, HLL authorities have refused to make the records public. "At the very outset we had clarified that we cannot accede to the workers' request," states a letter from John George, HLL's factory manager.

This attitude has enraged many, especially in the wake of recent tests conducted to ascertain the health hazards faced by the workers. Doctors from the Bangalore-based Community Health Cell found that many workers have gum and skin allergy-related problems, which seem to be due to mercury exposure. A few even have infertility and renal problems. The doctors opine that there is an urgent need to examine all the workers properly (see 'Toxicity sealed', Down To Earth , Vol 10, No 4, July 15, 2001). "The claims of HLL about its mercury dumping not causing any health hazards defy science," says R Kanan of Tamil Nadu Alliance against Mercury, a non-governmental organisation. "According to HLL's own report, contamination at its factory site is 25 times more than permissible limit and in several spots it is 800 times more than the limit," says Navraz Mody of Greenpeace, an international pressure group.

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