German chemical case goes to court

Issue 

German chemical case goes to court

By Bryan R. Thomas

BONN — Criminal proceedings have started in Frankfurt against the general managers of two of Germany's leading manufacturers of wood preservatives.

This is the most serious environmental case to come before a German court. It involves the illegal use of the insecticide lindane and the fungicide pentachlorphenol (PCP) between 1969 and 1979.

It is estimated that several hundred thousand people fell ill during this period following the use of the companies' products. Victims suffered from stomach pains, depression and inflammation of the nose and throat.

Last northern summer, the Frankfurt district court's environmental protection department decided that there was insufficient evidence for the case to proceed. This decision has now been overruled by a higher court.

The public prosecutor's office, which has spent five years investigating the allegations, is to bring charges in 37 cases. Another 137 have lapsed under the statute of limitations.

Although other chemicals are now used in place of lindane and PCP, experts claim that there still could be a health hazard when using wood preservatives indoors.