DBCP Case Study
DBCP Case Study
1. In your judgment, did Dow and Shell before 1977 do all they should have done for workers involved in the manufacture of DBCP? Explain your answer in terms of the ethical principles that you believe are involved.
Quite frankly, Dow and Shell failed to take all the precautionary measure to protect the welfare of the workers. First, it is fundamental to understand the fact that these two companies were more concerned with the marketing of their products and the return on investment. Therefore, the concern for the welfare of the workers was not their primary priority. Besides, these were the only two companies that had the right to produce the DBCP insecticide; hence their objective was the maximization of profits before competition set in.
From the case study, it is evident that Dow and Shell failed to uphold the ethical principle of disclosure and protection of human life. For example, after conducting the toxicology tests from 1952-1954, the results indicated clearly that DBCP has highly toxic in the form of skin irritations through the inhalation of fumes. However, since the company was more concerned with the returns on investment, they assumed that the effects of the toxic chemicals could be neutralized through careful handling of the pesticide and ensuring that the working environment was well ventilated.
Further still, Dow failed the observe the principle of confidentiality by not communicating the results of the tests to the workers. All the company did was to put a warning on their products on the harmful causes of DBCP so that the consumers can be aware. In this regard, the warning was in the best interest of the consumers and not the workers who were producing the pesticide. In my informed opinion, Dow failed to protect human life and failed on the principle of dignity to the protection of life. Despite the findings of the toxicology report, nowhere in the case study did Dow put up any measure to ensure the working environment was well ventilated. For this reason, it is easy to conclude that workers produced the pesticide under inhumane conditions; thus affecting their sperm cells.
On the part of Shell, they also failed to preserve the dignity and sanctity of human life by not adhering to the toxicology report from a California university. For instance, the report done on rats indicated harmful effects on the liver, kidney, brain and the reduction of the testes. Since rats have been used for experimental purposes for many years, it was only prudent that the company becomes ethical enough and uphold the findings for the preservation of the welfare of the workers.
What is apparently clear is that both Dow and Shell choose to turn a blind eye to all the findings that indicated the harmful effects of DBCP. From an ethical perspective, both companies displayed selfish interests and motives without taking into consideration the health and working conditions of the workers. Consequently, they failed to uphold the ethical principles of communication, disclosure and dignity because they did not protect the welfare of the workers.
2. In your judgment, did Dow and Shell do all they should have done for workers who might use their products? Explain.
Reading carefully through the case study, it is apparent that Dow and Shell failed to improve the working conditions and welfare of the workers. First of all, it is quite unethical the two companies only decided to take action after the news of sterility among workers at the Occidental plant sent shockwaves in the industry. It is quite easy to assume that prior to this shocking revelation, the companies knew the conditions under which their workers produced the toxic chemicals but failed to take any action.
Further still, even after a series of toxicology tests by the California university researchers and the findings, the two companies failed to invest and curb the harmful effects. For example, the reports indicated serious harmful effects such as skin irritation, kidney failures, low sperm counts and effects on other parts of the body. One thing that comes out clear is that the companies failed to improve the working conditions in terms of cushioning the workers with protective gear and making the working areas more ventilated.
In my view, the action taken by the companies of labeling the products with a precautionary warning was more reactive than active. Though, it was essential to warn the consumers, the internal mechanisms were not standardized. While the two companies obliged to the industry regulations to public the reports and sent copies to the Federal government, they continued exposing workers to inhumane conditions; thus affecting their health and mental stability. In this regard, the companies did not exhaust all the possible options to ensure that workers who might use the products were protected.
The companies (Dow and Shell) should have published educative content on how workers and final consumers can use the products to ensure that the harmful effects are minimized. For example, they should have called in experts to advise and train the workers on the safety measures and procedures to follow during the production process so that they can protect themselves against the harmful effects. So, even after the ultimate closure in 1977, it’s my view that the companies failed to preserve and protect human life.
3. In your judgment, was Amvac ethically justified in its decision to continue to produce DBCP and to market it in less-developed Third World nations? Argue.
In my judgment, the fact that both Dow and Shell refused to resume the production of DBCP was a clear indication that the consequences were dire and hazardous to human safety. Besides, the decision to cease the production of DBCP and quit the market was informed by a series of toxicology tests and advice from international bodies. Given this background, I believe that Amvac was not ethically justified to continue the production of such a highly toxic pesticide. Furthermore, Amvac was not justified to enter the market, just to fill the vacuum that had been left by the two most prominent companies.
From an ethical point of view, Amvac was not justified to ship the numerous boxes of the toxic pesticide to their world countries because they were highly conscious of the consequences. It was highly unethical because Amvac was pretty aware of the dangers it was exposed to the consumers of the third world countries, most of whom are illiterate and less knowledgeable of the prevailing dangers.
Furthermore, Amvac did not even take any precautionary measure to label its products with warnings so that consumers can purchase the pesticides with caution. The most unfortunate thing is that Amvac did not conduct any sensitization programs to train the consumers of the pesticide. This means that most of the consumers must have been affected by the adverse effects of brain tumors, low sperm count, destabilization of mental stability and other serious mental problems. Therefore, it would have been prudent for Amvac to stop the production and distribution of DBCP until all the ethical issues have been sorted out.
Running head: DBCP Case Study 1
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