An Industrial Disaster in Bhopal
On the night of December 2nd, 1984, Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, leaked about forty tons of a highly poisonous gas called methyl isocyanate (MIC), along with other toxic gasses. It was an industrial disaster of epic proportions. The plant was located in a densely-populated area, surrounded by shanty towns. Over 600,000 people were hurt. Thousands perished, and thousands were seriously injured or suffered permanent disabilities. The responsible corporation, Union Carbide, was shockingly callous before, during, and after the disaster.
The plant had a history of poor safety practices. The alarm had been raised for years, but was ignored. Union Carbide had turned down a request from local management for protective measures that would have averted the leak, because it deemed them expensive. The plant was built in 1969 to produce carbaryl, a pesticide sold under the brand name Sevin, and for which methyl isocyanate (MIC) was a key component. MIC is a highly toxic and irritating material, and is extremely hazardous to humans. Other manufacturers eventually switched to other processes to produce carbaryl without using the highly dangerous MIC. Not Union Carbide, which stuck with MIC at Bhopal because it was cheaper.