BASF, Shell to pay more than $100m in Brazil toxic exposure case

12 March 2013 21:10  [Source: ICIS news]

(updates paragraphs 6 and 7 with BASF comments)

PAULINIA, Brazil (ICIS)--Anglo-Dutch oil company Shell and German chemical company BASF have agreed to pay Brazilian reais (R) 200m ($102m) as compensation for former pesticides plant employees' exposure to toxic chemicals, Brazil's labour ministry (MPT) said on Tuesday.

Under the agreement, BASF and Shell will pay for collective moral damages to the former Paulinia, Sao Paulo, plant workers, the Brazilian authority said. They will receive lifetime medical assistance and other compensation for personal and material damages.

MPT said the text of the agreement must be written within 10 days, effective on 11 March.

Under the agreement, R50m will be destined for the construction of a maternity unit in Paulinia and R150m will be donated for the Workers' Health Centre of Reference in Campinas, Sao Paulo, and to Fundacentro, a government facility for scientific and technological research on health and labour safety, MPT said.

Additionally, compensation for personal and material damages to the 1,068 workers involved could reach R420m, MPT said.

BASF said the agreement helps bring closure to the situation.

"BASF is confident that the solution found meets the needs of all parts involved [in the case] and it is a result of all the efforts the company did previously to solve it," the company said.

Prosecutors have claimed that former employees at the Paulinia pesticides plant have shown health problems including prostate cancer, short-term memory loss and thyroid-gland issues.

According to BASF's 2011 annual report, the plant was built by Shell, sold to Cyanamid in 1995 and then acquired by BASF after the acquisition of Cyanamid in 2000.

In the report, BASF acknowledged that the site was "significantly contaminated by the production of crop protection products".

BASF and Shell were prosecuted in 2007 by MPT in Campinas, Sao Paulo, for prolonged exposure of the workers to chemicals used to make pesticides at the plant.

At least 60 people died as a result of the contamination, MPT said in a statement.

The Brazilian government shut down the pesticide plant in 2002.

Shell was not immediately available to comment on the case.

($1 = R1.96)

By: Leo Siqueira
+1 713 525 2600

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