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Paralympic sponsors kill, injure and disable people

By Steve Rushton

Why are corporations that are responsible for disabling people, and even killing people, allowed to brand their products at the Olympics?

This creates a disturbing hypothetical situation: Paralympians competing in London 2012 may have been disabled by the very corporations that their sporting prowess is promoting. More broadly, this draws attention to the number of people across the world that are disabled, killed and suffer due to corporate activities. The World Health Organisation attributes 1 in 5 deaths in the “developing” world to toxic and industrial pollution alone.[i] The most prolific killers include mining operations, the oil industry and metal production, which are all represented at the Games. A report by the Blacksmith Institute found that over 7 million lives were at risk from mining and ore processing, nearly 5 million from metal smelting, almost 3 million from heavy industry (metal casting, rolling, stamping) and just under 2 million from petrochemical industries.[ii] These sponsors of the Games are alongside companies not taking their responsibility for chemical disasters, who are involved in torture, illegal arms and weapons manufacturing .

Despite being the sustainability partner of London 2012, BP is one of the worst polluting oil companies. The dispersants that BP used after causing the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster are claimed by environmental scientists to cause genetic mutations and cancer, vastly adding to the health implications of the millions of gallons of crude oil that were released.[iii]

Toxic pollution from industry leads to serious health problems and disabilities, including: “cancer; cognitive impairment; organ damage. Health effects in children from exposures in utero include prematurity, low birth weight, blindness, cerebral palsy, and cognitive impairment.” [iv] The mining company Rio Tinto is trying to use the Olympics to increase its brand awareness, whilst committing numerous terrible destructive practices. This especially includes the Grasberg mine, in Papua, this mine is clearing the rainforest, annihilating the lives of the Amungme and Kamoro people, whilst discharging massive amounts of deadly toxic pollutants.[v] WALHI, the Indonesian environmental group, has reported how the mine has dumped billion tonnes of toxic waste into the river systems, including increasing copper levels to twice that of the Indonesian fresh water limit. [vi] Rio Tinto’s mine has also caused Mercury concentrations that have been found that exceed forty times the legal amount. [vii] At these levels mercury will contaminate fish, and then seriously destroy the central nervous system, and causes brain damage to the people who rely on this food source.[viii]

London 2012 sponsor ArcelorMittal is the world’s largest steel maker. It is as connected to health damaging pollution as it is to stealing peoples’ land across the globe. It faced a lawsuit in the Czech Republic for exceeding the air pollution regulations, and pumping 7 times the legal limits of airborne arsenic and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.[ix] Respectively these poisonous toxins can cause, cancer, developmental defects especially in the nervous system.[x] In Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the company has faced protests for failing to fit filters to the city’s steel works. This has caused terrible air quality and high levels of PM 10 and S02 to reach “alert levels,” also with carcinogenic levels of benzene and VOCs in the atmosphere.[xi] These four dangerous chemicals cause cell mutations, breathing and lung problems, cancer and death.[xii] In America, unlike many of the countries in which it operates, it has to audit its toxic pollution. It admits toxic chemical including: zinc, manganese, hydrochloric acid, lead, vanadium, chromium, copper, barium and cadmium. This was all released into just one of the states where it has operations, Cleveland in 2006. The side effects of all these chemical is extensive, and includes damage to peoples’ central nervous system and brain, the disease “manganism,” whose suffers become weary and slow. The chemicals can also cause cognitive deficits, kidney effects, gastrointestinal irritation, lung damage, severe trembling, paralyses, cancer and DNA damage. [xiii] A further example of ArcelorMittal’s destructive impact is their steel manufacturing plant in Vanderbijlpark, South Africa. It is reported one of the worst emitters of air pollution on the African continent.[xiv] Despite this, they too are allowed to raise their brand image by sponsoring Olympic athletics.

Sponsors Dow are another company that ethically should not be allowed to sponsor the Olympics. They supplied Napalm and Agent Orange for America to use against the Vietnamese, Laos and Cambodia. Both these chemical weapons still have adverse effects on the civilian populations. The Vietnamese Red Cross reported that over 150,000 children have been born with birth defects due to exposure to Agent Orange, a number which is still rising.[xv] More recently, this chemical giant acquired the chemical company Union Carbide; however they rejected their responsibilities to take on the company’s legacy for the Bhopal Disaster of 1984. This was the worst ever chemical explosion and has killed over 25,000. Today over 500,000 people continue to suffer, including serious birth defects and 120,000 people with chronic illness and disability. The current situation is described by the campaign group Drop Dow Now: “The soil and water in and around the plant are heavily contaminated with compounds and heavy metals which cause cancers, reproductive disorders, birth defects, growth retardation and other debilitating illnesses. Contamination has been found in water up to 3km away from the site.” [xvi]

Corporations’ activities also disable and kill people by orchestrating or supporting human rights abuses and torture. Many of the companies sponsoring the Games are involved in this practice. In Colombia, BP funded death squads: these attack, torture and kill community activists. The New Internationalist reported in 2011 that since oil exploitation began 20 years ago in Casanare, over 3 percent of the population has been killed or displaced.[xvii] Similarly, last year a BP led consortium was found guilty by the British Government of breaching human concerning the security on a pipeline that stretches over Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.[xviii] Also culpable is Rio Tinto, for their support of the Indonesian security services. The UN has reported how they systematically torture and abuse prisoners, including political activists who disagree with Rio Tinto’s mining operations.[xix] G4S work in the Palestinian occupied territories, which are defined as illegal under international law, also they are accused of supporting torture and imprisoning children.[xx] Criticisms levelled against Coca-Cola include human rights abuses, in China, Colombia and Guatemala.[xxi] Also Cisco has been blamed for assisting the Chinese State to repress peoples’ rights and enabling them to torture political prisoners.[xxii]

Over 100 countries including Britain have outlawed cluster bombs. Prior to their broad international ban, a 2006 showed how 98 % of the victims that were killed or maimed were civilians, especially children.[xxiii] However, Lloyds TSB is accused of providing banking services for the manufacturers of these weapons: they also sponsor London 2012.[xxiv]

The sick consequences of some of the corporations, that sponsor the Olympics, represent a broader human tragedy. People are dying as a consequence of many companies pursuit of profit; people have also become disabled as a consequence of others’ financial desire to make money or engage in unethical corporate behaviour.

Why is there no public outcry or scandal – that companies who are disabling people are improving their brand by sponsoring the Paralympics?

[i] The Effects of Toxic Pollution in the Developing World, Blacksmith Institute,

[ii] The World’s Worst Toxic Pollution Problems Report, Blacksmith Institute, 2011

[iii] Pierre Thomas, BP’s Dismal Safety Record, ABC News, May 2010
Suzanne Goldenberg, Dispersant ‘may make Deepwater Horizon oil spill more toxic,’ The Guardian, May 2010,

[iv] The Effects of Toxic Pollution in the Developing World, Blacksmith Institute,

[v] Abigail Abrash, and Danny Kennedy, Repressive Mining in West Papua, Moving Mountains: Chapter 4 and The Impact of Freeport’s mining activities on the Amungme and Komoro peoples in West Papua,

[vi] Briefing, Rio Tinto: a record fit for the Olympics? London Mining Network, August 2012,

[vii] Risky Business: The Grasberg Mine, An independent annual report 1998.

[viii] Krabbenhoft, David P.; Rickert, David A. What are the human health effects of mercury toxicity? U.S. Geological survey Fact Sheet,

[ix] Environmental Law Service, Steel Giant ArcelorMittal sued in Czech Republic for Pollution, ECCJ, April 2008,217.html?lang=fr

[x] Minnesota Department of Health Children’s Environmental Health, Chemicals of Special Concern to Children’s Health,

[xi] Citizens of Zenica protest Mittal Pollution, Global Action on ArcelorMittal, February 2011

[xii] Air Quality Factsheet; An Information Leaflet from Essex Health Protection Unit, Part of the Health Protection Agency, Reviewed December 2010,
Sulphur Dioxide (SO2): The International Volcanic Health Hazard Network
Benzene: Toxicological overview, Health Protection Agency, 2007
Volatile Organic Compounds, Health Effects Fact Sheet, Colorado Department of Health, November 2000

[xiii] Lead Toxicological overview, Health Protection Agency, 2012, and similar overviews on chromium, manganese, hydrochloric acid, copper, Vanadium, from Lenntech Water Treatment website, with similar overviews on barium and cadmium

[xiv] Africa: Cleaning Up Polluted Places,The Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide, Winter 2008

[xv] Tom Fawthrop, Vietnam’s war against Agent Orange, BBC Website, June 2004,

[xvi] DropDowNow, Why are the people of Bhopal still suffering?
Steve Rushton, The unethical corporate subversion of Britain, WhenEMW, April 2012,

[xvii] Brutish Petroleum, New Internationalist, Issue 434

[xviii] The Corner House, BP violating human rights rules, says UK Government: Ruling places BP in breach of its loan agreement, say campaigners, March 2011

[xix] Anthony Deutsch, Three shot dead near Freeport’s Indonesia mine, The Financial Times, October 2011,

[xx] Adri Nieuwhof, Security firm G4S confirms involvement in Israel’s occupation, The Electronic Intifada, January 2011
Donald Macintyre, Government asked: Why are you allowing ‘tainted’ G4S to handle Olympic security?The Independent, June 2012,

[xxi] Killer Coke campaign,

[xxii] Steven Musil, Lawsuit accuses Cisco of aiding Chinese repression: Suit alleges Cisco designed and supplied a surveillance system to track and sensor the activities of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. CNET, May 2011,

[xxiii] Richard Norton Taylor, Civilians main cluster bomb victims, The Guardian, November 2006

[xxiv] Jerome Taylor, UK banks fund deadly cluster-bomb industry, The Independent, August 2011, dly-clusterbomb-industry-2338168.html

Originally posted on Occupy News Network by Steve Rushton on Sep 8 2012.

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