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PURPOSE To examine the events contributing to the tragedy at Bhopal India and their repercussions and to draw conclusions based on these events INTRODUCTION What Happened at Bhopal Reading newspaper and magazine articles written immediately following the events at Bhopal it is apparent that it took some time for authorities to determine the causes of the industrial accident Speculation seems to have run wild for a time following the accident Drawing from later statistics and information seems to be a more reliable method of determining the most likely scenario Where various alternate feasible possibilities have been presented we will try to include the most likely At approximately midnight on December 3 1984 an unexpected chemical reaction took place in a Union Carbide of India Limited storage tank The storage tank contained methyl isocyanate hereafter referred to as MIC a toxic gas used in the process of a pesticide called Sevin1 As part of the distilling process there was an extremely high concentration of chloroform present This caused corrosion of the tank The tank being made of iron provided a catalyst for the reaction A large amount of water was also introduced approximately 120-240 gallons which in combination with the chemical generated enough heat to start the reaction The runaway reaction released an uncontrollable amount of heat and this resulted in 30-40 tons of the gas being vaporized and spread over approximately 30 square miles killing thousands of people and injuring hundreds of thousands2 The lack of information on MIC in 1984 made it a very toxic and difficult to control substance according to Meryl H Karol of the University of Pittsburghs Graduate School of Public Health He says Although nominally a liquid at room temperature methyl isocyanate evaporates so quickly from an open container that it easily turns into a colorless odorless highly flammable and reactive gas I would hesitate having it in a laboratory He also quotes the OHSA standard for
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