Bhopal Disaster

Definition - What does Bhopal Disaster mean?

The Bhopal Disaster, also known as the Bhopal gas tragedy, is the name of a catastrophic gas leak that occurred at the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide production plant in Bhopal, India. The incident occurred on the night of December 2-3, 1984, and it resulted in more than half a million people being exposed to methyl isocyanate, an extremely toxic chemical that was used in the manufacturing of pesticides.

Methyl isocyanate is classified as immediately dangerous to life or health at a concentration of 3 ppm. At least 3,783 people were killed in the disaster, which is currently considered by many to be the worst industrial disaster of all time.

Safeopedia explains Bhopal Disaster

The Bhopal Disaster involved the release of 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas MIC from failed holding tanks used in the manufacturing of pesticide chemicals. This gas flowed out of the factory and into the surrounding area, which was surrounded by highly populated shanty towns. According to a government estimate, the exposure caused 555,125 injuries, including 38,478 partial injuries and 3,900 severe and permanently disabling injuries.

Death estimates vary. The current government estimation is 5,295 immediately related to the gas release. Additional estimates have claimed another 8,000 deaths within two weeks, as well as an additional 8,000 deaths due to gas-related diseases in the following years.

There were numerous factors associated with the cause of the disaster, which occurred when the safety valve attached to an over-pressurized chemical tank broke—venting the chemical directly into the atmosphere. Most of the safety systems associated with the leak were malfunctioning, and various aspects of safety management were also lacking. This is evidenced by a plant supervisor who discovered a leak shortly before the disaster but decided to put off the management of the leak until after his tea break.

In addition to the immediate aftereffects of the Bhopal disaster, the incident also resulted in long-term health effects for many people, as well as an ongoing environmental health and safety (EHS) problem. According to the Bhopal Medical Appeal, between 120 to 150,000 survivors struggle with serious side effects related to exposure, including nerve damage, birth defects, and elevated rates of cancer and tuberculosis. Much of the land and water supply around the disaster site have not been decontaminated, and this exposure to the chemical has therefore been associated with further injury and illness.

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