The incident at Bhopal, India bears remembering.  This week marks the 25th anniversary of the event.  As detailed at Bhopal.org here,

On the night of Dec. 2nd and 3rd, 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, began leaking 27 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate. None of the six safety systems designed to contain such a leak were operational, allowing the gas to spread throughout the city of Bhopal.[1] Half a million people were exposed to the gas and 20,000 have died to date as a result of their exposure. More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments caused by the accident and the subsequent pollution at the plant site.

After this happened, chemical plants world-wide performed serious investigations and improvements on their chemical storage and handling systems.  As noted here, the incident at Bhopal also

…  spurred demand for industry to disclose information about chemicals and was an important influence on right-to-know regulations.

…it was the event that changed the behavior of the industry, its safety practices, and its relationship with the public.

Seemingly, these efforts have been helpful.

As detailed by BBC News, questions remain as to whether people’s ongoing needs after this disaster are being met:

a report published by the British-based charity the Bhopal Medical Appeal (BMA) and the Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal says there is evidence that “there are still high levels of toxic chemicals in the drinking water supply in 15 communities near the old Union Carbide pesticide plant”.

The report says the water “in and around the Union Carbide factory site in Bhopal still contains extremely unsafe levels of carbon tetrachloride and other persistent organic pollutants, solvents, nickel and other heavy metals”.

Indian officials are reported to be dismissing these claims, noting

neighbouring communities near the site had been supplied with clean drinking water.

There appears to be a particular emphasis on the drinking water, but one must also look at other exposure pathways.  After all, the people at Love Canal, in Niagara Falls, NY,  were exposed to chemicals seeping in through walls and floors, in the soil, and in the air they breathed.


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