Vizag gas leak shocks the nation! India, yet again, has had to face another gas tragedy at a time when people are already grappling with Coronavirus pandemic.
Vizag gas leak shocks the nation! India, yet again, has had to face another gas tragedy at a time when people are already grappling with Coronavirus pandemic. A gas leak in Visakhapatnam (Vizag) has brought back memories of 1984 Bhopal tragedy after it affected people living in five villages and has claimed 11 lives as of now. So, what is Styrene gas and how has exposure to it caused harm? The gas was leaked from South Korean electronics manufacturer LG’s styrene plant in Vizag, Andhra Pradesh. Many residents of surrounding villages- BC Colony, RRV Puram, Padmapuram, Kamparapaelem and Venkatapura were found unconscious on the roads, the IE reported. It was also revealed that six people died due to prolonged exposure to the gas and two people lost their lives while they were trying to escape from the leak.
So, what exactly is styrene?
Styrene is used in production of polystyrene plastics, rubber fiberglass and latex. It is also found in cigarette smoke, vehicle exhaust and natural foods like vegetables and fruits, the report said. One thing to know about styrene is that it is a flammable liquid.
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How does styrene exposure cause harm?
The report citing the US-based Environment Protection Agency (EPA) mentioned that respiratory issues, irritation in eyes and mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal problems can be caused with short-term exposure to the substance. If exposed for a longer duration, a person’s central nervous system can be affected leading to many problems. It can also cause cancer in some cases or induce depression in a few.
Styrene gas exposure: What symptoms can first occur?
During exposure to styrene gas, a person can feel symptoms like headache, loss in hearing, fatigue, weakness, and difficulty in concentrating among others. Even in animals, the report said, there are side-effects on the CNS, kidney, liver and eye and nasal irritation caused by inhaling gas.
Current situation in Vizag: Sytrene exposure and impact on health
The IE report highlighted that it is still unclear at the moment if the deaths are caused due to direct exposure to styrene gas or because of its byproducts. Citing Visakhapatnam Police Commissioner Rajiv Kumar Meena, the report said that he has stated that the gas is “non-poisonous” and only exposure to long durations can cause fatality. Meanwhile, after the leak, hundreds of people including many children have been admitted to hospitals. The gas leak was detected around 3 am in the morning that delayed the process of taking safety measures and therefore, many people were exposed to it for hours. As soon as it was reported, police officials started making announcements over speakers. However, many were unconscious till this time, the report added.
LG Polymers has given a statement saying temperature change inside the storage tank along with the stagnation could have resulted in auto polymerization and thus, causing vapourisation. The company is investigating the incident and the leak has been contained. The report underlined that there was around 1,800 tonnes of styrene stored at the plant during the leak.