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Bhopal gas tragedy ! :)

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• The Bhopal Gas Tragedy (commonly referred to as Bhopal Disaster) was a gas leak incident in India,

which is considered one of the

World's worst Industrial catastrophe’s.

• It Occurred on the night of 2nd–3rd December, 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide

plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India.

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• Bhopal , the state capital of Madhya Pradesh is geographically at the centre of India. About one third

of its one million inhabitants live in tightly packed, shanty housing in its northern and central districts.

• In 1969, Union Carbide (India), a subsidiary of a large American Corporation set up a pesticide

formulation plant on the north edge of the city, originally too import , mix and package pesticides

manufactured in the United States .

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BACKGROUND OF UCIL -• UCIL, was the Indian subsidiary of Union

Carbide Corporation (UCC), with Indian Government controlled banks and the Indian

public holdings at 49.1% stake.• In 1994, the Supreme Court of India allowed UCC to sell its 50.9% share. Union Carbide sold

UCIL, the Bhopal plant operator, to Eveready Industries India Limited in 1994.

• The Bhopal plant was later sold to McLeod Russel (India) ,Dow Chemical Company purchased UCC in 2001.

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The UCIL factory was built to produce the

pesticide SEVIN

(UCC's brand name for carbonyl)


Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) as an


Methylamine(1) reacts withphosgene

(2) producing methyl isocyanate(3) which reacts with1-naphthol

(4) to yield carbaryl

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THE GAS DISASTER :• For reasons that remain unclear, the Cooling System of Tank610

was not functioning in the last months of 1984.

• Late in the evening of December 2nd , it was hypothesized that Water (either through mechanical malfunction or operational

error) entered the tank mixing with the already stored 42 tons of MIC.

• The resulting exothermic reaction increased the temperature inside the tank to over 200°C (392 °F) and raised the pressure


• About 30 metric tons of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) escaped from the tank into the atmosphere of Bhopal in 45 to 60 minutes.

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• In November 1984, most of the Safety Systems were not functioning and many valves and lines were in poor condition.

• In addition to this, several vent Gas Scrubbers had been out of service as well as the steam boiler, intended to clean the pipes

was not operational.

• Another issue was that, Tank 610 contained 42 tons of MIC which was much more than what safety rules allowed.

• A runaway reaction started, as soon as the accident happened which was accelerated by contaminants, high temperatures and

other factors.

• The reaction accelerated up by the presence of iron from corroding non-stainless steel pipeline which resulted in the

exothermic reaction.

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The gases were blown in South-Eastern direction over Bhopal.

As of 2008, UCC had not released information about the possible composition of the cloud.

Apart from MIC, the gas cloud may have contained Phosgene, Hydrogen Cyanide, Carbon Monoxide, Hydrogen Chloride, Oxides of Nitrogen, Monomethyl Amine (MMA) and Carbon Dioxide, either produced in the storage tank or in the Atmosphere.

The gas cloud was composed mainly of materials denser than the surrounding air, stayed close to the ground and spread outwards

through the surrounding community.

The nature of the cloud is still discussed. The chemical reactions would have produced a liquid or solid aerosol with high density. The concentrations at ground level would have been much higher than

earlier published.

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1. The timing of the explosion was such that most of those exposed (an estimated 3,50,000 were asleep) .

2. Survivors report being awakened by an acrid (chili-like) stinging of the eyes and throat.

3. The low boiling point of MIC caused it to be re-vaporized at body temperature and inhaled deeply into the lungs: as a result damage to the bronchial was extensive and the post-mortem findings in those who died immediately after the leak reported widespread

airway Necrosis with Pulmonary Enema and Haemorrhage.

4. Owing to their height, children and other people of shorter stature inhaled higher concentrations. Many people were trampled trying

to escape.

5. Thousands of people had succumbed by the morning hours.

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o There were mass funerals and mass cremations. Bodies were

dumped into the Narmada River, less than 100 km from Bhopal.

o 170,000 people were treated at hospitals and temporary


o 2,000 buffalo, goats,

&other animals were collected and buried.

o Within a few days, leaves on trees yellowed and fell off.

o Supplies, including food, became scarce owing to suppliers'

safety fears.

o Fishing was prohibited causing further supply shortages.

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Within a few days, trees in the vicinity became barren, and 2,000 bloated animal carcasses had to be disposed of.

On 16 December, tanks 611 and 619 were emptied of the remaining MIC. This led to a second mass evacuation from Bhopal.

The Government of India passed the "Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster Act" that gave the government rights to represent all victims, whether or not in India.

Complaints of lack of information or misinformation were widespread.

An Indian Government spokesman said, "Carbide is more interested in getting information from us than in helping our relief work.“

Formal statements were issued that air, water, vegetation and foodstuffs were safe within the city.

At the same time, people were informed that poultry was unaffected, but were warned not to consume fish. No one under the age of 18 was registered at the time of the accident. The number of children exposed to the gases was

at least 200,000.

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• The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the

government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787

deaths related to the gas release.• Others estimate 8,000 died

within two weeks and another 8,000 or more have since died

from gas-related diseases.• A government affidavit in 2006 stated the leak caused 5,58,125

injuries including 38,478 temporary partial and

approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling

injuries.• 2,000 bloated animal carcasses

had to be disposed.

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– Apart from MIC, the

dense gas cloud may

have contained

• phosgene,

• hydrogen cyanide,

• carbon monoxide,

• hydrogen chloride,

• oxides of nitrogen,

• monomethyl amine

(MMA) and

• carbon dioxide, either produced in the storage tank or in theatmosphere.

– The initial effects of exposure were coughing, vomiting, severeeye irritation and a feeling of suffocation.

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• It is estimated 100,000 to 200,000 people have permanentinjuries.

• Reported symptoms are :

– eye problems,

– respiratory difficulties,

– immune and neurological disorders,

– cardiac failure secondary to lung injury,

– female reproductive difficulties and

– birth defects among children born to affected women.

• The Indian Government and UCC deny permanent injuries werecaused by MIC or the other gases.

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• Plant Management Deficiencies were also identified –

– lack of skilled operators,

– reduction of safety management,

– insufficient maintenance,

– inadequate emergency action plans.

• Use of a more dangerous pesticide manufacturing method, or “ROUTE”, where same raw materials are combined in a different manufacturing order, with phosgene first reacted with naphthol to form a chloroformate ester, which is then reacted with methyl amine.

• In the early 1980s, the demand for pesticides had fallen, but production continued, leading to buildup of stores of unused MIC.20

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Gas Vent Scrubber Stack -BEFORE

Gas Vent Scrubber Stack -THEN

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• 1988: US$ 350 million was claimed by The Government of India from UCC.

• November 1988: Indian Supreme Court told both sides to come to an agreement and "start with a clean slate".

• 1989: UCC agreed to pay US$ 470 million for damages caused in the Bhopal disaster.

• October 2003: The Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department awarded the compensation to 554,895 people for injuries received and 15,310 survivors of those killed.

• June 2010: 7 ex-employees of the company were sentenced to two years imprisonment and fined Rs. 1 lakh approx 2000$.

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The Worst part is Cleaning and Decontamination of the site has got embroiled

in Legal Wrangles of -

I. How to clean the site,

II. What should be done with the wastes and

III. Who should pay for it— state governments, the Centre, successor buyer of the factory,

Dow Chemical, waste disposal and incineration companies, research institutes

or non-profits.

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• This is because everything that could have gone wrong in the initial years after the tragedy went wrong.

• After this, all that the people and activists have done is to try and reverse those fatally damaging actions—with

little success. •The Indian judiciary succumbed, many would say, by

agreeing to a paltry compensation and by settling all civil and criminal liability of the company.

• Then the company did everything to ensure that its complicity and responsibility was diluted.

• So, there is a name for the disease— BHOPAL GAS DISEASE —but no identification of who the affected are or

what their treatment status is.

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• Sources of Information :

1. www.google.com

2. www.eolss.net

3. www.icmrindia.org

4. www.downtoearth.org.in

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