Union Carbide

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Union Carbide Corporation
Type Subsidiary
Industry Chemical manufacturing
Founded 1917
Headquarters Houston, Texas, USA
Key people Patrick E. Gottschalk, CEO & President
Products Bulk Chemicals
Ethylene Derivatives
Revenue US$7.33 billion (2009)
Parent Dow Chemical Company
Website Unioncarbide.com
1922 advertisement for Union Carbide gas lighting. Electric lighting was not yet common in many rural areas of the United States.[1]

Union Carbide Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary (since 2001) of Dow Chemical Company. It currently employs more than 2,400 people.[2] Union Carbide produces chemicals and polymers that undergo one or more further conversions by customers before reaching consumers. Some are high-volume commodities and others are specialty products meeting the needs of smaller markets. Markets served include paints and coatings, packaging, wire and cable, household products, personal care, pharmaceuticals, automotive, textiles, agriculture, and oil and gas. The company is a former component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.[3]

Founded in 1917, the company's researchers developed an economical way to make ethylene from natural gas liquids, such as ethane and propane, giving birth to the modern petrochemical industry. Before divesting them, the chemical giant owned consumer products Eveready and Energizer batteries, Glad bags and wraps, Simoniz car wax, and Prestone antifreeze. The company divested other businesses before being acquired by Dow Chemical on February 6, 2001, including electronic chemicals, polyurethane intermediates, industrial gases and carbon products.[4]


The Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation was formed in 1917 from the merger of the former Union Carbide founded in 1898 and the National Carbon Company founded in 1886. These companies made carbon rods for arc lights and electrodes for electric arc furnaces, and produced aluminium.[5] Other companies merged included Linde Air Products, maker of liquid oxygen, Prest-O-Lite, manufacturer of calcium carbide, and Electro Metallurgical. In 1920 the company set up a chemicals division which manufactured ethylene glycol for use as automotive antifreeze. The company continued to acquire related chemical producers, for example, the Bakelite Corporation became a division in 1939. The company changed its name to "Union Carbide Corporation" in 1957 and was often referred to as Carbide. It operated Oak Ridge National Laboratory from 1947 until the late 1970s.[6]

Ucar batteries was Carbide's industrial and consumer zinc chloride battery business. The business including Energizer alkaline batteries was sold to Ralston Purina in 1986, following a hostile takeover attempt.

Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster[edit]

The Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster took place between 1927 and 1932 in a West Virginia tunnel project led by Union Carbide. During the construction of the tunnel, workers found the mineral silica and were asked to mine it for use in electroprocessing steel. The workers were not given masks or breathing equipment to use while mining. Due to silica dust exposure, many workers developed silicosis, a debilitating lung disease. According to a marker on site, there were 109 admitted deaths. A congressional hearing placed the death toll at 476.[7]

Asbestos mining and 'Calidria' brand fibers[edit]

In the early 1960s, Union Carbide Corporation began mining a newly identified outcrop of chrysotile asbestos fibers near King City and New Idria, California. The fibers were sold under the brand name "Calidria", a combination of "Cal" and "Idria." These fibers were sold in large quantities for a wide variety of purposes, including addition into joint compound or drywall accessory products.[8] Union Carbide sold the mine to its employees under the name KCAC ("King City Asbestos Mine") in the 1980s, but it only operated for a few more years.[citation needed]

Bhopal disaster[edit]

The Bhopal disaster was an industrial disaster that took place at a Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in the Indian city of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Around midnight on 3 December 1984, methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas was accidentally released from the plant, exposing more than 500,000 people to MIC and other chemicals. The government of Madhya Pradesh confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. It left an estimated 40,000 individuals permanently disabled, maimed, or suffering from serious illness, making it one of the world's worst industrial disasters in history.[9] Union Carbide was sued by the Government of India and agreed to an out-of-court settlement of US$470 million in 1989. The plant site cleanup and India's demand for the extradition of then-Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson are yet to be resolved.

Sydney Harbour[edit]

Union Carbide heavily contaminated land in the suburb of Rhodes, Sydney, Australia with dioxin waste. As a result no fish caught west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge should be eaten by recommendation of the Food Authority NSW. The Rhodes site was central to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert T. Beall (1940). "Rural Electrification" (PDF). United States Yearbook of Agriculture. United States Department of Agriculture. pp. 790–809. Retrieved 2012-01-08. "Of the more than 6.3 million farms in the country in January 1925, only 204,780, or 3.2 percent, were receiving central-station electrical service." 
  2. ^ Union Carbide Corporation, About Us. Accessed May 31, 2011.
  3. ^ History of DJIA, globalfinancialdata.com
  4. ^ Union Carbide Corporation, History, Accessed July 9, 2008.
  5. ^ Themistocles D'Silva, The Black Box of Bhopal: A Closer Look at the World's Deadliest Industrial Disaster,Trafford Publishing, 2006 ISBN 1-4120-8412-1, page 27
  6. ^ See the Oak Ridge National Laboratory article.
  7. ^ "Hawk's Nest Tunnel Disaster". West Virginia Department of Culture and History. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  8. ^ LA Times, "Case Hinges on Material Witness", Lisa Gurion, September 26, 2004
  9. ^ Eckerman, Ingrid (2001) Chemical Industry and Public Health — Bhopal as an example. Accessed 8 November 2010
  10. ^ Davies, Anne (30 October 2010), "The poison that got away", Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, Australia) 

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