Shell Brazil & BASF pesticide plant, Brazil


In March 2007, the Brazilian Ministry of Labour and several workers’ associations filed a lawsuit against Shell Brazil and BASF alleging that workers employed at and living near a pesticide plant, first owned by Shell and then by BASF, suffered cancers and other severe health problems as a result of land and groundwater contamination around the plant. The claim, in Paulínia Labour Court, São Paulo, sought compensation for their illnesses and suffering as well as recovery of medical costs.

Basic Data
NameShell Brazil & BASF pesticide plant, Brazil
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Agro-toxics
Specific Commodities
Project Details and Actors
Type of PopulationUrban
Company Names or State EnterprisesShell Brasil Petróleo Ltda from Brazil
BASF (BASF) from Germany
Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) from Netherlands
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersBusiness and Human Rights, Sindicato Químicos Unificados,
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
Local ejos
Trade unions
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Boycotts of companies-products
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Development of AlternativesCompensation to the affected people and close down polluting plants.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.In January 2009, the court granted an interim injunction in favour of the plaintiffs, ordering Shell and BASF to pay for medical treatment of all of its former employees and their families. On 19 August 2010, the court upheld its earlier injunction and ordered the defendants to pay R$64,500 (US$36,700) in compensation to each former worker and any of their children born during or after their service at the factory. The defendants were also ordered to pay R$ 622 million (US$354 million), in collective compensation for 'danos morais' ('moral damages'), into a Worker Protection Fund. Both defendants appealed the decision. BASF argued it was not responsible for the damage to workers' health because it acquired the plant and the contaminated land after the pollution had occurred. Shell denied any links between its operations and the harms to workers. On appeal, the São Paulo Labour Court affirmed the lower court's ruling. In March 2012 Shell and BASF were in settlement talks to determine who should pay the Brazilian damages. In February 2013 the São Paulo Labour Court reported that Shell and BASF had offered the plaintiffs a settlement -- lifelong health plans for each, worth about US$26 million. The parties agreed to a final settlement in March 2013 worth about 620 million reais (US$316 million).
Sources and Materials

Links provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre:
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Bloomberg, 'BASF, Shell in Talks to Settle $653 Million Brazil Contamination Penalty'
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Portal de Paulina, 'Shell e Basf terao que fazer pagamento antecipado referente ao tratamento medico' (in Portuguese)
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'Thousands exposed to Shells toxic waste in Brazil', 2010
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'Shell, BASF Agree to Settle Brazil Contamination Case for $187 Million -Court!'
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The Wall Street Journal

Media Links

Quimicos Unificados
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Vídeo documentário do Unificados sobre Shell/Basf
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Meta Information
ContributorIrene Pietropaoli
Last update10/04/2019