Relocation of polluting industries
Transfer of hazardous manufacturing industries to developing countries
Due to lax safety standards and regulations, cheap labour and regulatory costs, and sometimes government subsidies, more and more manufacturers of hazardous substances are locating in developing countries. Often the host countries lack adequate capability to control byproducts of the manufacturing process.
Metal refining, smelting and mining industries, together with the manufacturers of leaded petrol, asbestos, chlorine and pesticides have endeavoured to shift operations to developing countries. For example asbestos is widely produced in the 1990s by affiliates of transnational corporations operating in Latin American countries following recognition of the liability for occupational diseases of companies manufacturing in Western industrialized countries. Asbestos continues to be widely used there as a building material. Similarly pesticide manufacture and use is widespread in developing countries, including products banned in Western industrialized countries. Lead smelting, which requires costly environmental precautions in industrialized countries, is carried out by affiliates of foreign companies under conditions operating three times higher than safety levels required in the USA. The Bhopal disaster of 1984 left 2500 Indians dead when a lethal gas leaked from the Union Carbide plant located there. Inadequate safety control was cited as one cause. A chemical plant at Cubatao, Brazil was closed down by the local courts in 1993 for having exceeded the legal limits of toxic contamination by over 15,000 times in the land around the facility. Such practices are expected to increase with the signature in 1993 of the GATT Uruguay Round.
Unless industrialized countries act soon to constrain the global transfer of out-of-date, dangerous technologies, the cost of repairing the damage (as has been discovered in the USA and Mexico) is expected to be very high, in addition to the incalculable costs to human health.