The Costa Rican Ministry of Health has ordered the US multinational
H.B. Fuller Costa Rica, S.A. to comply with local laws and change the
label on their toxic glue products to reflect both the toxicity and
addictiveness of their Resistol contact cement.
Responding to a formal complaint from the child advocacy group "Casa
Alianza", a branch of the New York based "Covenant House", the Costa
Rican Ministry of Health emitted an April 27th, 1988 order to the
subsidiary of the St. Paul, Minnesota based company to "proceed to
change the labels of the cited product within the prudential period of
fifteen working days". H.B. Fuller's operations for the whole of Latin
America are based in San Jose.
The Director of the Registry and Controls section of the Ministry,
Ernesto Hodgson Dixon, also ordered that "the labels of the products
which are actually in the national market" also be changed within the
same period "from the date of issuance of this resolution".
Although they are chemicals, solvent based shoe glues are the
principal "drug" of choice amongst the estimated 40 million street
children in Latin America. Street children, often as young as just 5
or 6 years old, inhale the potent solvent based glues to try and
suppress feelings of hunger, cold and abandonment. The toluene or
cyclohexane solvents used in shoe glues cause permanent and
irreversible brain damage in the pre-pubescent street children.
Casa Alianza has led a seven year campaign against the H.B. Fuller
company and other multinationals, trying to halt the use of dangerous
solvents in such readily available over the counter products. The
global attention brought to this campaign has resulted in major
articles against H.B. Fuller in the New York Times as well as major
television reports on US, Spanish and British stations. A federal
lawsuit was brought against H.B. Fuller in the Minnesota state courts
in 1996, accusing the H.B. Fuller company in the wrongful death of
Joel Linares, a 16 year street child from Guatemala who died from
kidney failure as a result of sniffing Resistol glue. The case,
presented by Austin (Texas) lawyer Scott Hendler, was eventually
dismissed on geographical grounds without responding to it's content.
A further lawsuit against the billion dollar company is reportedly
-H.B. Fuller has stated publicly that they comply with all the laws in
the countries where they operate. This is obviously just another
un-truth as Fuller has now come unstuck once again, commented Bruce
Harris, the Executive Director of Latin American Programs for Covenant
House. As a result of Harris' and Covenant House's complaint to the
Ministry of Health in this Central American nation, it was discovered
that H.B. Fuller Costa Rica has been functioning without an "Operating
Permit" as required by Costa Rican law.
-So much for truth and
compliance, commented Harris. The Fortune 500 multinational was,
until recently, headed by Walter Kissling, a Costa Rican.
-This stuff is worse than heroin, explained famed neurologist Herb
Schaumberg, referring to the solvent based glues in a recent
international television production on the plight of "resistoleros",
as Honduran street children are generically called after H.B. Fuller's
-With heroin you get addicted, but it doesn't
destroy your brain like this stuff does. This is very insidious. The
children do not realize it is happening to them.
The Latin American branch of Covenant House annually serves more than
4,000 street children in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua,
almost all of whom have consumed solvent based glues.
-We are spending
hundreds of thousands of dollars a year treating children who have
been permanently damaged as a result of multinationals going after
high profit margins at whatever social cost, continues the British
born Harris. H.B. Fuller reports 13% of global sales yet 27% of global
profits from its Latin American operations.
-It's about time that
companies put people before profits, demanded Harris, who has been
successful in pushing for stricter legislation in all Central American
-The labeling requirements introduced here in Costa Rica were as a
result of our working with the Ministry of Health, helping them to
assume their responsibility for the street children of their country.
Now they must enforce their laws against renegade multinationals who
are only interested in the almighty dollar at whatever cost.
H.B. Fuller has until Tuesday, May 19th, 1998 to comply with the Costa
Rican law or face further legal actions.