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Mercury poisoning - South Africa

Thor Chemicals was a British company manufacturing mercury-based products at a factory in Margate in Kent.  

After coming under pressure from the UK Health & Safety Executive over high levels of mercury in its Margate factory workforce, Thor Chemicals transferred its operations from the UK to South Africa.

Rather than improving its safety performance, Thor’s South African plant operated in an even more dangerous manner, dismissing workers or sending them to work in the garden when their mercury levels hit their upper limits.  

Two workers died of mercury poisoning, one after being in a coma for three years. Many others were seriously poisoned and suffering from a range of severe physical and psychological injuries. Criminal prosecution in South Africa resulted in Thor being fined for breaches of health and safety regulations.

Leigh Day represented 42 South African workers who had been poisoned by mercury at the Thor factory in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The claims were brought in the UK, where Thor Chemicals Holdings continued to be based. Compensation was paid by Thor following settlements reached in 1997 and 2000. 

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