Toxic Waste Spill in Ivory Coast Exposes ‘Dark Underbelly’ of Globalization

Toxic Waste Spill in Ivory Coast Exposes ‘Dark Underbelly’ of Globalization

LONDON -- In Ivory Coast, it began with a foul stench emanating from the rank of dump trucks hired to dispose of an unknown shipment that had come aground at the port of Abidjan under cover of darkness. The shipment of highly toxic waste, floated through international waters by the Dutch multinational Trafigura aboard a Panamanian-flagged ship, was the residual product from an offshore cleaning of fuel oil tainted with too much sulphur.

Shunted from port to port, it finally landed in Abidjan for the bargain-basement fee of $20,000. But in the seven months since it was offloaded and disposed of in an open-air site in a densely populated part of the riverine West African city, the noxious sludge has exacted a heavy price.

Fifteen people have died, more than 100 made seriously ill and several thousand more suffer lingering effects on their health, their livelihoods and their personal environments. Trafigura has just settled a $200 million lawsuit with the government of Ivory Coast, while a class-action suit is making steady and slow progress through the British legal system.

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