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The tragedy of Bhopal

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARYMOHAMMADMaritime transport is inherently dangerous by nature, and many incidents have resulted in a significant loss of life, especially since 1890. Investigations into these incidents are conducted in order to determine what went wrong. The identification of causes, and the development of ways to prevent recurrence, is important for advances in maritime safety. This term paper analyzes the affect that technology, human error, and emergency response may have had on six fatal peacetime maritime accidents that occurred between 1912 and 1994. The incidents analyzed include the s.s. Mont Blanc, RMS Titanic, RMS Empress of Ireland, ms Estonia and ms Herald of Free Enterprise.The root causes and contributing factors of each incident was evaluated in terms of technology, human error, emergency response, and the regulatory environment in place at the time of the incident. Root cause failures due to human error and technology were found to have a greater impact on the incidents analyzed. Whereas failures within emergency response was found to significantly impact the number of fatalities for each incident.Considering the analysis of these six incidents, a list of suggested recommendations is presented that are relevant for improving the safety of maritime operations today.


I. INTRODUCTIONA. BACKGROUNDBYRON Bhopal disaster statistics: what happened, why it happened, what the outcome was How the disaster affected Union Carbide How the disaster affected regulatory requirements in the chemical industryB. PURPOSEMOHAMMADThe purpose of this paper is to understand the impact of the Bhopal incident and to investigate and explain any ongoing legacy issues. C. OBJECTIVESThe objective of this term paper is to discuss: How the Bhopal disaster is believed to be impacting the next generation (e.g. birth defects) MOHAMMAD Ongoing environmental impact from the release (soil & groundwater contamination) MOHAMMAD Current rehabilitation plans (including the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Ministry) ELISE Regulatory Implications (US: 1986 EPCRA, establishment of OSHAs PSM Regulation and EPAs RMP Rule) ELISE Liability related legacy issues (e.g Union Carbide settlement, litigations, current ownership) ELISE Disasters similar to Bhopal after it occurred MOHAMMAD Lessons learned from the incident including inherently safer design, growth in process safety management, importance of community engagement and awareness BYRON Emerging Issues related to inherent safety and reactive chemicals BYRON

II. THE LEGACY OF BHOPALTextA. HEALTHText MOHAMMADThe immediate aftermath of the accident was the resulting death toll controversy. While the Indian government official put the death toll count as 1,754, this was vehemently denied and criticized by voluntary organizations on the ground and the NGOs. The Delhi Science Forum estimated the deaths to be around 5000 whereas the circumstantial evidence of death such shrouds sold, missing persons estimate put the death toll at about 10,000. (Shrivastava, 64-65). In its report in 2004, Amnesty International estimated that between 7000 and 10 000 people died within 3 days of the disaster, and another 150,000 to 200,000 died from related caused to the accident from 19852003. These figures are much higher than most official estimates, and are based on extrapolation of mortality rates. (Sharma)

In the beginning few months of the Bhopal tragedy, it was believed that the aftereffects of exposure of MIC were temporary and would not cause any long term medical affects (Boffey). However, due to the overwhelming case of injuries believed to be in the range from about 200,000 to 300,000, it became abundantly clear that despite MIC being used in the industrial process for several decades, very little was known about its long-term effects (Smyth). The most serious and permanent damage which affected the general popular was related to the respiratory tract. The MIC furthermore also damaged mucus membranes, perforated tissue, inflamed the lungs and caused secondary lung infections. Many of these survivors later on went to have asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, and fibrosis, leave physically unable to work and earn a living. (Shrivastava, 67-68)

To compound the general populace woes they also had to deal with the effects of other toxic gases which had leaked from the storage tank. It can be said with certainty that the releasing gas contained a mixture of MIC with chloroform. (Srivastava, 70). The diverse set of symptoms found in the survivors prompted the health organizations to conclude that MIC alone could not be responsible. The combination of toxic gases inhaled by the victims possibly contained a mixture of over 20 aqueous and thermal decomposition products, which included hydrogen cyanide (Sharma). After MIC, the chemical which caused the most havoc to the residents health was hydrogen cyanide. Even though its a deadly poison, antidotes to it are known and if Union Carbide had made the local press and hospitals aware of it, rather than denying its presence, many lives could have been saved (Shrivastava, 71). Thirty five percent of the patients had contracted gastrointestinal, nervous system and eye damage which proved that the victims were suffering from cyanide poisoning. (Medico Friends Circle)

Other than fatalities, physical injuries and economic and social disruptions another problem which enveloped and become epidemic in the survivors were those of psychological problems. Although fear was the primary psychological symptom of the residents and the survivors, other symptoms such as sleeplessness, nightmares, anxiety, loss of libido, projection of guilt and increased family violence were not to be discounted. Mass fear within the city caused almost 400,000 residents to flee the city and never return. The majority of the people who suffered such psychological illnesses were women of childbearing age. Such women also suffered from severe gynecological illnesses, such as shortened periods and abnormal menstrual cycles (Shrivastava, 73-74). Furthermore about fifty percent of women reported an inability to breast-feed due to lactation failure (Medico Friends Circle). Out of 2700 pregnancies, 52 ended in stillbirths. Amongst the live births, 132 babies survived only for a short time and 30 of them were born malformed. (Madhya Pradesh Chronicle)

The challenges related to the accident continue till this day. The medical fraternity did not believe in chemical asthma, and after a long time have started to believe and realize that chemicals can cause asthma and treat it (Bisarya and Puri). More than half a million people were exposed to MIC; around 120 000 of them continue to suffer from chronic respiratory, ophthalmic, reproductive, endocrine, gastro-intestinal, musculoskeletal, neurological, and mental disorders (Sharma). Furthermore nowhere else in the world are there more people with the diseases called pulmonary fibrosis leading to pulmonary cripples. Treatment for this disease has been slow and has been marred by the usual litigation and bureaucracy issues. Reproductive problems still exist with mothers even today giving birth to still born or deformed fetuses. Lastly cancer cases continue to multiply and mental retardation in the residents is getting more manifest. (Bisarya and Puri).B. ENVIRONMENTText MOHAMMADEven though the damage to plant and animal life was equally devastating, the effects on them were not studied because all of the available resources were focused on mitigating human losses. The number of animal deaths, after the initial leak was reported to be about 2000. More than 7000 animals were given therapeutic care and the postmortem done on the animals suggested cyanide poisoning was involved. The MIC leak destroyed the standing vegetation in the surrounding areas with the plants suffering from symptoms such as dryness, scorching and bleaching. A dramatic increase in the free carbon-dioxide and ammonia nitrogen was also detected in the water after the accident. After the accident up to 22 chemicals were found to be have dumped by Union Carbide into either air, water or soil. (Shrivastava, 74-75).

1. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT (THEN & NOW)Text MOHAMMADA number of investigations done by Indian and international organizations have found that the subsoil and groundwater are contaminated with heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants from the abandoned pesticide plant. According to a recent report commissioned by Greenpeace in 2004, it was found that chemicals such carbon tetrachloride chloroform, trichloroethene, tetrachloroethene, and dichlorobenzene, were present in concentrations ranging from five to 600 times the safe limits. Keving Brigden of the Greenpeace Science Unit, University of Exeter, UK said in the report that Persistent organic chemicals stay in the environment for tens of thousands of years. They have known health effects on the liver and kidney, while some are carcinogenic. Based on its findings, Greenpeace gave a list of recommendations for cleaning up the site in Bhopal. It recommended off-site treatment of the contaminated soil and reuse of the land and has opposed the idea of converting the site into a landfill, which was proposed by the local state government. Harald Burmeier of University of Applied Sciences, Gehrden, Germany, explained that The factory contaminated the environment in three phases: the production phase before the accident, when there were chemical losses; the accident in which gases leaked and dust emissions polluted the surrounding areas; and the third phase is the post-accident era when leftover chemicals soaked into the ground due to rain and other weather conditions. Despite these recommendations, nothing has been done at the site during the past 20 years. The fence which was supposed to eclipse the plant has not been completed even till today. As such the restricted area is open to the public and the children play there, the cattle graze on the local vegetation and people take away material for building their houses, further endangering their health. (Sharma)2. CURRENT REHABILITATION PLANSText ELISEC. CHEMICAL SAFETY REGULATIONSText ELISE


III. LESSONS LEARNED FROM BHOPALTEXT. BYRONA. DISASTERS SIMILAR TO BHOPALTEXT MOHAMMADOne of the most important lessons learnt from Bhopal was the need to study both the short-term and long term effects of chemicals used in the industry. Unfortunately this important lesson has still not been applied in practice, where to this day the effects of most industrial chemicals remain poorly understood. If an accident such as Bhopal were to happen again, doctors are still likely to be faced with treating a mysterious poison as they were in Bhopal (Mukerjee).

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recorded 74 major accidents in the eight years preceding to Bhopal. Even after Bhopal, the next eight years the number of major gas releases reached 106. In the USA alone between 1980 and 1990, the number of gas releases that exceeded Bhopal in quantity and toxicity totaled 15. According to Donald J. Lisk of Cornell University, the reason behind not studying the damage industrial chemicals cause, is that unlike pesticides and drugs, the industrial chemicals were not intended to be ingested. Hence, studying them is not a priority. In present day, adequate toxicology exists for only 2 to 3 percent of the more than 70,000 substances used to create about five million products, observes Joseph LaDou of the University of California at San Francisco. He further says that for 75 percent, there is no toxicology at all. This cavalier attitude goes on to show that in the event of a leak or a release, it will be the workers and general populace who will be treated as guinea pigs as was in the case of understanding the health effects of MIC. (Mukerjee)

One of the main reasons for the Bhopal accident to occur was corporate oversight and greed. The incident of Bhopal raises important questions about the accountability of corporations and the availability of legal redress for the most vulnerable members of the society such as the poor, the uneducated, the disenfranchised, the unrepresented, and the marginalized-who have been directly affected by harmful corporate actions (Dussias). The story of Bhopal in corporate actions repeats itself in many cases, and one of these examples relates to the environmental destruction of Corrientes River Basin of the northeastern Peruvian Amazon caused by the actions of Occidental Petroleum Corporation. Just like Bhopal, the local residents continue to suffer from the lingering effects of the environmental degradation caused and have been doing so for the last 30 years. According the lawsuit filed in the State of California in May, 2007, the plaintiffs claim that that Occidental "knowingly engaged in destructive practices which severely contaminated unique and sensitive ecosystems and caused profound impacts upon the rights and health of the communities living there." More specific claims included in the complaint were claims for wrongful death, negligence, battery, trespass, fraud, and public and private nuisance. (Dussias)

The question remains to be asked is why would the governments of India and Peru be willing to subject poor, vulnerable citizens of their own countries to the risky, environmentally destructive practices of multinational corporations? Why would they not regulate such industries and have effective measures to counter any unsafe practices. The root cause of the problem is that in both the Achuar and Bhopal scenarios, the superior political and economic power of multinational corporations was welcomed by the governments in question. The governments did not ask or require the consent of the people whose lands, lives, and livelihoods were threatened by such operations. To summarize when government goals came in conflict with the human, property, and other rights of vulnerable, effectively disenfranchised segments of the population, the government gave top priority to accomplishment of its own goals, which were more likely to bring benefits to other segments of the population. The lesson learnt in such a scenario is that even democratically elected governments may place what they see as important development goals and projects above the health and safety of segments of their population that are not in a position to effectively protest (Dussias). To avoid incidents like this to be repeated it is vital to have a truly representative democracy. The people who will be exposed to the risk that these plants must have a say in the opening and workings of these plants. (Dussias)


IV. CONCLUSIONSText ELISEThe precursors that lead to the incident and the direct impact on Union CarbideHow the incident impacted regulations and industry focus; andThe future of the ongoing legacy issues

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