The Incident At Bhopal Essay Research Paper

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The Incident At Bhopal Essay, Research Paper PURPOSE: To examine the events contributing to the tragedy at Bhopal, India and their repercussions and to draw conclusions based on these events. INTRODUCTION: What Happened at Bhopal? Reading newspaper and magazine articles written immediately following the events at Bhopal, it is apparent that it took some time for authorities to determine the causes of the industrial accident. Speculation seems to have run wild for a time following the accident. Drawing from later statistics and information seems to be a more reliable method of determining the most likely scenario. Where various alternate feasible possibilities have been presented, we will try to include the most likely. At approximately midnight on December 3, 1984, an

unexpected chemical reaction took place in a Union Carbide of India Limited storage tank. The storage tank contained methyl isocyanate, (hereafter referred to as MIC) a toxic gas used in the process of a pesticide called Sevin.(1) As part of the distilling process there was an extremely high concentration of chloroform present. This caused corrosion of the tank. The tank being made of iron provided a catalyst for the reaction. A large amount of water was also introduced, approximately 120-240 gallons, which in combination with the chemical, generated enough heat to start the reaction. The runaway reaction released an uncontrollable amount of heat and this resulted in 30-40 tons of the gas being vaporized and spread over approximately 30 square miles, killing thousands of people

and injuring hundreds of thousands.(2) The lack of information on MIC in 1984 made it a very toxic and difficult to control substance, according to Meryl H. Karol of the University of Pittsburgh?s Graduate School of Public Health. He says, ?Although nominally a liquid at room temperature, methyl isocyanate evaporates so quickly from an open container that it easily turns into a colorless, odorless highly flammable and reactive gas… I would hesitate having it in a laboratory.? He also quotes the OHSA standard for exposure to MIC during an eight-hour day as 0.02 parts per million, ?far lower than what many Bhopal residents were exposed to.?(3) THE HEALTH AFFECTS of exposure to MIC is disastrous. At low levels, MIC causes eyes to water and results in damage to the cornea. At

higher concentrations, muscles constrict, and the bronchial passages have the equivalent of a severe asthma attack.(3) Most of the deaths in India were due to this. Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan, Assistant Director of Public Health Practice at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, who went to Bhopal to render assistance, said, ?There was edema, substantial destruction…of alveolar walls, … a ulcerative bronchiolus…? among patients at the severely crowded hospitals.(4) Serious damage to the central nervous system after three to four weeks, including paralysis, and psychological problems have also been a result.(3) The long-term affects of MIC exposure are equally disastrous. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, at least 50,000 people are still suffering and new

chronic cases of asthma keep showing up as the population ages and 39% of the surrounding population have some form of severe respiratory impairment.(5) Most of them will suffer for the rest of their lives.(6) It is a conservative estimate that 5 people die every week as a result of the Bhopal accident.(7) Another consideration is that in a social class that maintains a living through physical labor, inability to perform results in starvation.(8) Affects on women were profound. Out of 198 women living within 10 miles of the facility, 100 had abnormal uterine bleeding.(1,5) Of the local women who were pregnant before the accident, 43% miscarried and 14% of the babies carried to term died within a month. Socially, these women are considered unwanted by potential husbands because