When methyl isocyanate is mixed with water at a high temperature, it can produce 65 chemicals, most of them toxic; but so far, no one knows the true extent of its impact on Bhopal
December 3, 2022, marks the 38th anniversary of the day when Bhopal turned into a gas chamber as methyl isocyanate (MIC) spilled out from Union Carbide India Ltd’s (UCIL) pesticide factory, making it the world’s largest industrial disaster.
The second and third generations of citizens continue to suffer because of the tragedy. Till today, nobody knows about all the health impacts of MIC or its treatment.
Doctors prescribe medications that treat the symptoms rather than the latent cause of it. Hazardous and unnecessary medication just increases the health risks and monetary liability of victims.
A survivor of the tragedy today would have consumed over 30 kilograms of medicines since the accident.
A Central Bureau of Investigation report released a few years after the disaster said the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) had manufactured poisonous gases for use in World War II and still supplies deadly chemicals to the US chemical weapons arsenal but failed to disclose the exact composition of the leaked gases.
UCC began in 1920, with the manufacture of gases like phosgene for the US and its allies. UCIL used trade secrecy to withhold composition of the leaked gases. There was some evidence that it could be cyanide poisoning because injections of sodium thiosulphate were working on the patients.
But these treatments were soon discontinued. The Indian Council of Medical Research had conducted 24 studies which were discontinued in 1994 and their results have not been published till date.
Independent studies pointed to cancer, mental disorders and birth defects. But the lack of a pointed epidemiological study makes it easy to dismiss the cause of these consequences to poverty and lack of hygiene.
Even though the UCIL factory is now permanently shut, Carbaryl, aldicarb, carbon tetrachloride and chloroform waste dumped around it pollutes drinking water for citizens till date.
For more than a decade after the disaster, wastes, by-products and solvents from the machinery polluted water inside and outside the plant. Another 350 tonnes of waste has been kept in a leaking shed at the site polluting soil and groundwater which threatens more people than the actual disaster.
These slowly degrading chemicals will remain in the environment and spread unless taken out. Only time will tell when the city will truly recover from the ‘Bhopal Gas Disease’.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.