Dow Settles Hazardous Chemical Exposure Claims with Alabama Miners

September 29, 2010

Dow Chemical Co. and Flexible Products Co. settled with nearly 1,400 miners in an Alabama court over the miners’ claims they were exposed to hazardous chemicals, Dow said Tuesday.

The surprise settlement involving 1,394 miners came at Tuscaloosa Circuit Court Monday just as opening statements were due to begin after a one-month-long search for jurors in a trial expected to last three to four months.

“The terms of the settlement of this case and the related case in West Virginia (Abbott) are confidential so we cannot disclose specific information,” said Dow Chemical spokesman Scot Wheeler.

“However, Flexible Products and Dow each believes that the settlements represent a good outcome to these cases, which have been pending for a significant period of time,” he said in a statement.

The miners alleged that they were exposed to isocyanate, or rock glue, which was used to shore up walls and ceilings in the mines in central Alabama. The case involving active and former miners was filed in 2001.

Rock glue can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening, asthma. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes it as a “powerful irritant” that can affect the eyes, gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts.

Exposure sensitizes workers, and deaths have been reported from asthma attacks.

“I have not been part of a case wherein a citizen served on a jury for four weeks and not heard one minute of testimony,” Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge John England told jurors in comments reported by local media and confirmed by his office.

The case was moved from Jefferson County, Alabama, as the original judge assigned to the case was recently censured and stepped aside.

“The history of this case would make you dizzy,” said Dennis Hall, spokesman for Jim Walter Resources, a mining company originally named in the case but later dropped as a plaintiff and not part of the settlement.

Dow’s specialty chemical, advanced materials, agrosciences and plastics businesses deliver technology-based products to customers in approximately 160 countries, its website said.

For 25 years, Flexible Products Co. has produced low-cost, high quality injection molded rubber components for the automotive industry, the company’s website said.

(Reporting by Verna Gates. Editing by Matthew Bigg and Robert MacMillan)

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