ndsharma's blog

Why the use of poison by Union Carbide?

Posted on: November 30, 2013

On December 3 falls the 28th anniversary of the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster. The survivors and their sympathisers will observe the ritual, as they always have, of holding prayer meetings, taking out processions, shouting slogans against the authorities and burning the effigies of former Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson.

The ritual over, these hapless survivors will return to their desultory life, hoping for some miracle that would make their living a little less miserable.  All they need is medicine, uncontaminated drinking water and some means of sustaining their life. They have spent all these years in the hope of this miracle. The governments at the Centre and in the State have made every effort to deny them these basic necessities —- the Central government which had, by an Act of Parliament, taken upon the role of the guardian of the families affected by the MiC gas leak from Union Carbide’s pesticide plant, and the State government which has the responsibility of implementing the projects aimed at providing succour to the survivors.

An important issue ignored by the authorities so far is why Union Carbide was using poison in its pesticide plant in Bhopal.

The presence of cyanide and phosgene in the blood of the victims and in the residue of the storage tank immediately after the disaster on December 2-3,1984 had puzzled the scientists because these two chemicals are not required to manufacture pesticides. While high concentration of hydrogen cyanide was found in air samples close to the tank two to three days after the leakage, phosgene was also smelt close to the tank during the release.

The vapour of hydrogen cyanide “may be followed by almost instantaneous collapse and cessation of respiration”. Cyanide can also accumulate in the body. Then the common symptoms are headache, dizziness, nausea and weakness. Less common are rash, increased sweating, dyspnoea, weight loss and irritability, besides, many other “unspecified symptoms”.

Phosgene was “effectively used as a combat gas during the First World War”. It is a severe irritant to the entire respiratory tract.

The Indian authorities did not even seek an explanation from the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) about the presence of these two chemicals, as these were not required for making pesticides.


3 Responses to "Why the use of poison by Union Carbide?"

There are two books where you find details on MIC manufacturing: Bhopal – the inside story by TR Chouhan and The Bhopal Saga, written by me. Both can be purchased from Sambhavna Trust in Bhopal.

(I am sorry for this very late comment, but the message about this blog was sent to an old address that I don’t use.)


The information to which Sarangi objects was taken from “The Bhopal Saga: Causes and Consequences of the World’s Largest Industrial Disaster’ by Ingrid Eckerman, the Swedish medical practitioner, who was a member of the International Medical Commission on Bhopal.


first of all, be careful with dates, december 3, 2013 was the 29th anniversery not the 28th as you write. secondly, open your mind to include yoga and massage and such medicine-less therapies and your eyes to see the thousands of chronically ill survivors who have benefited through yoga before pronouncing that all bhopalis require are medicines to get better, thirdly, avoid being vague, the central government did not become the guardian of the bhopal survivors through the bhopal act, it became the sole representative specifically on the matter of compensation for the disaster, fourthly, understand that all pesticides are poisonous and hence a question such as “why union carbide was using poison in its pesticide plant in bhopal” is a dumb question, fifthly, get your facts right, phosgene WAS used in the manufacture of methyl iso cyanate at the union carbide plant. every scientific report on the disaster prominently mentions phosgene as one of the ingredients for the manufacture of MIC. sixthly, read up some of the very basic stuff thats published on the disaster and its health effects, the fact that MIC degrades at high temperatures to hydrogen cyanide is not a mystery and was mentioned in most reports of cyanide exposure of bhopal victims. lastly, try and make better use of your time and find really relevant stuff to write on the ongoing disasters in bhopal.


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