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BE Bhopal Gas Tragedy

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    Sumit Sharma

    Subham BansalDeepika Tyagi

    Surbhi Gupta

    Raj shekhar

    Kuntal Panja

    Akansha Bhatnagar

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    When I saw the leaves on the trees

    curl and turn black and birds fall

    dead out of the sky, I knew that

    this was Death, come among us asforetold. My regret is that I

    survived.

    - An anonymous worker at the plant

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    Background1970s:

    -Indian Government invites UCC(Union Carbide Corporation) to set up

    Sevin plant

    - Plant built in Bhopal to central location and transport Infrastructure

    - Indian Government has 22% stake in UCIL (UCCs India Subsidary)

    -Plant initially approved for formulation only (built in area zoned for light

    industrial use)

    -Forced to sell of business after business in order to maintain its coreoperation, Union Carbide was eventually sold to The Dow Chemical

    Company in 1999, marking the sad end of a chemical industry pioneer

    -Competition forces backward integration. MIC manufactured at Bhopal

    site.

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    Methyl Isocyanate (MIC)-Clear, colourless, b.p. 39oC, odour threshold 2.1 ppm

    Effects of 0.4 ppm:

    - Coughing

    - Chest pain

    - Breathing pain (dyspnea)

    - Asthma- Eye irritation

    -Nose, throat, skin damage

    Effects of 21 ppm:

    - Lung Oedema

    - Emphysema (damage of lung tissue)- hemorrhaging

    - bronchial pneumonia

    -Death

    40,000 kg were released in Bhopal on 3rd December 1984.

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    What went wrong on the night of 2-3 December, 1984?

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    NONEof the safety systems designed to prevent a leak - sixin all - were operational on THATNIGHT:

    1. Flare Tower (disconnected)

    2. Vent Gas Scrubber (out of caustic soda andinadequate for unsafe volume of gas)

    3. Water Curtain (not functional; designed withinadequate height)

    4. Pressure Valve (leaking)

    5. Run Off Tank(already contained MIC)

    6. Mandatory Refrigeration for MIC Unit (shut downfor 3 months to save money)

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    Worst industrial disaster in history

    2,000 people died on immediate aftermath

    Another 13,000 died in next fifteen years

    10-15 persons dying every month

    520,000 diagnosed chemicals in blood causing different healthcomplications

    120,000 people still suffering from

    Cancer

    Tuberculosis

    Partial or complete blindness,

    Post traumatic stress disorders,

    Menstrual irregularities

    Rise in spontaneous abortion and still birth

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    Causes given by Management

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    However, neither is a root cause.

    The root causes were management decisions

    A History of Massacre....

    Union Carbide started out as a carbon company in 1886 and diversified togases and chemicals during World War I.

    From the Manhattan project of World War II, until it relinquished its

    contract in 1984, Union Carbide was a contractor to the US federal

    government's nuclear weapons production.

    Before Bhopal, Union Carbide Corporation caused the largest industrial

    disaster in the US. In the construction of the Hawk's Nest Tunnel in West

    Virginia in 1934 nearly 2000 company workers, most of them black, died

    ofSilicosis - an occupational disease caused by hazardous working

    conditions.

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    At the Cimanggis plant in Indonesia at one point in 1978, 402

    employees (more than half the work force of 750), were

    suffering from kidney diseases attributable to workplacecontamination according to the company's doctor Dr.Maizar

    Syafei.

    S

    he was asked by the company not to tell the workers thatthere was mercury in their drinking water or else the workers

    "would become anxious."

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    Obsessed with the Bottomline

    As part ofUCC's economy drive, the management at the Bhopal plant

    had switched off the refrigeration unit to save about Rs.700 (US $50)

    per day.

    Had the refrigeration unit been working, a runaway reaction in the MIC

    tank could've been delayed or prevented. Experts prescribed fortnightly

    inspection of plants dealing with corrosive chemicals such as MIC.

    At Carbide's Bhopal plant, inspections were rare and replacements

    often not made for up to 2 years. Also included in the cost cutting

    measures was the reduction in the workforce in the Bhopal factory -

    brought down by half from 1980-84.

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    The work crew for the MIC plant was cut by half from 12 to 6

    workers, the maintenance crew in the same plant reduced from

    6 to 2 workers.

    In the control room, there was only 1 operator who was

    expected to monitor 70-odd panels, indicators and controllers

    on the console.

    The period of safety training to workers in MIC plant wasbrought down from 6 months to 15 days.

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    Double Standards at West Virginia, US

    All the vital systems at US plant hadback-ups and were

    automatically linked to computerised alarms and crises controlsystems.

    The Bhopal plant not only lacked all the above but the sole

    manual alarm was also switched off so as not to 'unduly' alarm

    people.

    Over the Limit

    All over Europe the maximum permissible storage limit for

    MIC was half a ton.

    At the Bhopal plant, the US company's management overrode

    the wishes of the managers of its Indian subsidiary and kept

    the storage capacity hazardously high at over 90 tons. On the

    night of the disaster, 67 tons of MIC were stored in two tanks.

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    Alarmed Management

    The first time the management of the Carbide plant came to know about

    the leak was at 11:00 pm. The factory alarm meant for workers wasstarted by a desperate worker at 12:50 pm.

    The management not only turned it off within minutes but also delayed

    the sounding of the public siren until as late as 2:00pm by which time all

    the gas that could leak had leaked.

    Price of a life

    The first suit filed by Melvin Belli claimed damages upto $15 billion.

    Later the Indian Government arrogating itself the sole power to

    represent all the victims, filed a suit for upwards of $3 billion.

    4 years after filing the suit and without informing the victims, the

    government settled for a sum of $4

    70 million, nearly one-seventh of theoriginal claim.

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    Long History ofViolation

    Union Carbide is the first company in the US to violate laws relating to

    providing information on chemicals used in a facility. The company

    claimed Trade Secrecy Protection in refusing to identify one of the key

    chemicals used in its plant at Henderson, Kentucky.

    Using the same cover, UCC continues to withhold vital information

    about the exact nature and composition of the leaked gases and its

    effects on the human system.

    After 15 years, this is still one of the prime reasons for the absence of a

    proper line of medical care for the victims.

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    Highly Confidential

    In May 1982 the Safety Audit team which reported directly to the UCC

    headquarters in Danbury, stated in the inspection report of the Bhopal plant

    that there were "a total of61 hazards, 30 of them major and 11 of them in

    the dangerous Phosgene/Methy Isocyanate units."

    This report was marked Business Confidential and only senior officials

    were privy to its contents. The company was also forewarned of the

    possibility of a runaway reaction involving a MIC storage tank 3 months

    prior to the Bhopal leak by its Safety and Health Inspectors based in

    Institute W.Virginia.

    Had the warnings in this report be heeded and the suggested action plan

    implemented, the Bhopal disaster could've been averted. Union Carbide did

    not send the report to the Bhopal plant.

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    Buying 'Experts

    Within the first week of the disaster4

    'medical experts' came toBhopal on a visit sponsored by UCC. In their interviews to the

    media, they stated that the leaked gases would not have any long

    term health effects on the exposed population.

    This was in sharp contrast to the subsequent research findings.

    One of these experts was Brian Ballyentine, who was also a

    toxicologist for the Pentagon. Another expert, DrHans Weil, Prof.

    and Chairman of Pulmonary Medicine at the TulaneUniversity

    Medical School, New Orleans, has a history of fudging medical data

    to minimize liabilities of Corporations (a prime example being thatof Johns Manville Inc. in the Asbestosis case), and had been

    reprimanded in the past by a US court for his unethical conduct. He

    examined victims in Bhopal and said "they have an encouraging

    prognosis and most would recover fully."

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    A Major Cover Up

    After the disaster Dr. Max Daunderer, a toxicologist from Munich,

    demonstrated