Bhopal Gas Disaster

August 27, 2013

Gas safety is important, whether at home or in the workplace. We should all be aware of how dangerous Carbon Monoxide poisoning is. In low dosages over a short period of time it causes headaches and nausea. In higher concentrations or over a longer period of time, It can cause a loss of consciousness, seizures and death. Adding to the danger of CO poisoning is the fact that the symptoms are very general, in many instances misdiagnosed as flu symptoms. Also the gas is odourless and colourless- making it hard to detect. If you are concerned in anyway about potential gas leaks in your home or work place then contact for a complete professional gas safety check.

Gas related disasters are not limited to the home. In the following example one can see how devastating an industrial sized gas leak can be, and how insufficient gas safety standards contributed to the disaster.

The Bhopal Gas Tragedy, a gas leak in India in 1984 is widely considered to be the world’s worst industrial disaster, let alone the world’s worst gas leak disaster. In the night of the 2nd to the 3rd of December 1984 a gas leak at a pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh in India exposed over half a million people to methyl isocyanate. The immediate death toll was around 3,000- but over 8,000 people died in the two weeks following the disaster and a further 8,000 in the months following.

Contributing Factors

The plant was created in 1969 to produce Sevin, a pesticide. Part of the production method included the use of methyl isocyanate. In the early 80s demand for pesticides started to wane, but production at the plant continued, leading to a dangerous buildup of methyl isocyanate stores.

The 1984 disaster was not the first time the plant had had problems. In 1976 trade unions had complained about pollution at the plant. In 1981 a worker died from an incident involving phosgene gas. The company was warned by visiting American experts as to the potential dangers of methyl isocyanate storage. Indeed this issue was the proverbial fuel to the fire. In 1983 and 1984 there were a series of safety related accidents that could’ve easily been prevented by proper safety procedures- these included another phosgene gas accident involving 24 workers who were not told to wear gas masks and a methyl isocyanate leak which caused a supervisor to suffer from 30% to his body.

So in summary the contributing factors to the disaster which affected so many were – storing methyl isocyanate at levels beyond recommended parameters, poor maintenance of valves, pipes and safety systems, attempted cost reduction exercises which pushed safety down the list of priorities and an inadequate emergency action plan. What also made the disaster so lethal was the fact that the plant was located in a heavily populated area.

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