On December 3, 1984 a tremendous industrial accident occurred in the city of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh in India. A pesticide plant leaked about 40 tons of a highly toxic gas called methyl iscoyanate. This gas leaked caused the deaths of over 15,000 people in surrounding towns.
The plant was constructed in India as the world was seeing an incredible push for farmers to produce higher yields of crops. This caused a increased demand for fertilizers and pesticides. The Bhopal plant was producing a product that was not as effective as once thought. Production at the plant was cut and as time passed, needed repairs and safety upgrades to the plant were not done.
CAUSES OF BHOPAL DISASTER
- Understaffed and untrained workers at the plant: There was no supervisors on site at night. Poorly trained workers were in charge of operations
- Broken and poorly maintained equipment: There were issues with the flair tower, the vent gas scrubber, and holding tanks.
- Refrigeration unit was turned off to conserve energy. The chemicals required proper chilling and circulation. The safety manual clearly states the the unit was required to always been in the "on" position.
- Loss of large amounts of livestock and crops: The toxic chemicals caused the death of many animals and poisoned crops.
- Ground water contamination: As the chemicals leeched into the ground the chemicals found their way into the water supply. To this day there are still high levels of toxic chemicals in the water.
- Soil impact: Just like the ground water being contaminated, the soil also has high levels of toxic chemicals. This impacts crops and creates more exposure to the toxic chemicals.
- Birth defects: As a result of the high concentrations of these toxic chemicals there has been a tremendous number of babies born with birth defects in these areas.
SOLUTIONS TO PREVENT A SIMILAR DISASTER
- Higher safety standards: Having working equipment and following all of the safety guidelines.
- Inspections: Inspections should be conducted to be sure that all safety guidelines are being followed.
- Training: All employees should be properly trained and a supervising staff members should be present at all times.
- Action plan: A plan should be in place to address how to properly respond to any incident that does occur.
- In the situation in Bhopal, the toxic chemicals were never properly cleaned up. There was blame placed between the facility and it's US based company Union Carbide. Neither the facility or Union Carbide took responsibility for the cleanup. To this day, these toxic chemicals are still leeching into water and soil causing harmful effects for the environment.