Reminiscent of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, gas from LG Polymers factory on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh leaked in the wee hours of 7 May 2020 killing at least eight persons. The gas leak from the factory located at RRV Puram near Gopalapatnam, about 15 kms from Visakhapatnam, affected at least 2,000 residents in five villages located around the factory. Panic-stricken residents of RRV Puram, Venkatapuram, BC Colony, Padmapuram and Kamparapalem fled the area and many fell unconscious on the roads. Police and NDRF teams evacuated several factory workers. Hundreds of people in unconscious condition or breathing difficulties were brought to the King George Hospital. Children and elderly were most affected. An official at KGH said that the death toll may go up.
 
Image Source: TOI
 
What
  1. The LG Polymers factory was originally established in 1961 as Hindustan Polymers to manufacture polystyrene. 
  2. It was merged with MCDowell &Co of the UB Group in 1978 and was taken over by South Korea-based LG Chem in 1997 which renamed it as LG Polymers
  3. The factory manufactures general purpose polystyrene and high impact polystyrene, expandable polystyrene, and engineering plastics compounds.
  4. The factory was to reopen on 7 May 2020 after the lockdown. The workers were preparing to restart the work when the gas started leaking in the wee hours. 
  5. An official of LG Polymers issued a statement that there was 1800 tonnes of styrene in the storage tank
  6. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on 7 May 2020 issued notices to the Central and Andhra Pradesh governments on the gas leak in Visakhapatnam that left at least over 10 people dead and scores ill as of afternoon.
  7. The NHRC took suo motu cognisance of media reports of the incident at LG Polymers early on 7 May 2020 morning. The leak affected people in a radius of about 3 km of the plant, leaving them with difficulty in breathing and skin rashes.
  8. Though there had been no prima facie reports of human error or negligence, the incident was a “serious violation of human rights”, it observed.
  9. The Commission also considered it appropriate to bring the matter to the notice of the Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs and has asked through its Secretary to examine whether the norms laid down under relevant provisions of the law are being implemented at the particular industrial unit and to submit a report to the Commission. Responses from all these authorities are expected within four weeks.
What is styrene
  1. The company makes products used in manufacturing electric fan blades, cups and cutlery and containers for cosmetic products such as makeup.
  2. The plant uses raw material styrene to make its products. Styrene is highly flammable and releases a poisonous gas when burnt.
  3. If a person inhales styrene, it can have an adverse impact on the nervous system, changes in colour vision, tiredness, feeling drunk, slowed reaction time, concentration problems, and balance problems.
  4. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Toxicology Program (NTP) listed styrene as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" in the Report on Carcinogens, Twelfth Edition, released on June 10, 2011.
  5. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that styrene is a possible carcinogen.
  6. Acute exposure to styrene in humans results in respiratory effects, such as mucous membrane irritation, eye irritation, and gastrointestinal effects.
  7. Tests involving acute exposure of rats and mice have shown styrene to have low to moderate toxicity by inhalation and oral exposure.
  8. Chronic exposure to styrene in humans results in effects on the CNS (Central Nervous System), with symptoms such as headache, fatigue, weakness, depression, CNS dysfunction (reaction time, memory, visuomotor speed and accuracy, intellectual function), and hearing loss, peripheral neuropathy, minor effects on some kidney enzyme functions and the blood.
About the LG Polymers plant
  1. The LG Polymers plant, owned by South Korean battery maker LG Chemical Ltd, makes polystyrene products, according to a company website.
  2. The company makes products used in manufacturing electric fan blades, cups and cutlery and containers for cosmetic products such as makeup.
  3. The plant uses raw material styrene to make its products. Styrene is highly flammable and releases a poisonous gas when burnt.
  4. The company was established in 1961 as "Hindustan Polymers" for manufacturing Polystyrene and its Co-polymers.
  5. In 1978, it merged with Mc Dowell & Co. Ltd. of UB Group.
  6. In 1997, the company was taken over by LG Chem (South Korea) and was renamed as LG Polymers India Private Limtied (LGPI).
  7. LG Chemical has a very strong presence in the Styrenics business in South Korea.
  8. The company is currently one of the leading manufacturers of Polystyrene and Expandable Polystyrene in India.
Chhattisgarh Gas leak
  1. At least seven people have been admitted to a hospital in Rigarh after they were exposed to poisonous gas that leaked from a paper factory. 
  2. According to reports, a toxic gas leak was reported at Shakti Papers when cleaning work was underway. 
  3. The paper mill is located in Tetla village. All the seven labourers have been admitted to a government hospital. 
  4. The condition of three of them is said to be critical. “Poisonous Gas has leaked from a paper industry, Shakti Papers while cleaning the plant.