What Is Styrene?
Styrene is an organic compound with the chemical formula C₆H₅CH=CH₂. This derivative of benzene is a colourless oily liquid, although aged samples can appear yellowish. The compound evaporates easily and has a sweet smell, although high concentrations have a less pleasant odour.
LG Polymers is investigating the incident and the leak has been contained.
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 the Coronavirus pandemic. A gas leak in Visakhapatnam (Vizag) has brought back memories of the 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.
Styrene Gas Explained!
So, what exactly is styrene?
Styrene is used in the production of polystyrene plastics, rubber fibreglass 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.
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 by 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 of 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 the gas.
The current situation in Vizag: Styrene 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 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 were around 1,800 tonnes of styrene stored at the plant during the leak.
Acting on the gas leak tragedy in Vishakhapatnam early on Thursday, the Ministry of Home Affairs has arranged 500 kgs of Para-tertiary catechol (PTBC) chemical to neutralize the effect of Styrene Monomer. The PTBC chemical has been arranged by a firm in Gujarat's Vapi and will be carried to Vizag by the NDRF team from Pune. The PTBC chemical is expected to prevent any further damage by the leak of Styrene gas. Earlier, Gujarat Chief Minister's Secretary Ashwani Kumar had informed that on CM Jagan Mohan Reddy's administration request for the PTBC chemical, the order had been placed with a company in Vapi and the consignment would be brought to Daman from where it would be airlifted.
According to the latest update, 11 people have been killed while 20 remain in critical condition after they were exposed to the gas leakage. The gas is believed to have an impact till 1.5 km from the factory where the incident happened. Andhra Pradesh DGP Damodar Goutam Sawang had earlier informed ANI that around 800 people were shifted to hospital and many have been discharged. He added that drinking lots of water is one of the antidotes to gas.
Meanwhile, CM Jagan Mohan Reddy has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 1 crore to the kin of the deceased and Rs 10 lakh to those residing in the vicinity of the factory. He has also stated that an investigation is underway and promised strict action against the factory and its owners. The AP Chief Minister has also assured jobs for those affected. Moreover, an FIR has also been registered against the L G Polymers industry.
11 people have been killed and nearly 250 have been hospitalized after a chemical gas leakage at the LG Polymers factory in RR Venkatapuram village in Vishakapatnam on Thursday. The gas leak is believed to be Steyrene gas which affects the Central Nervous System of the human body and is suspected to have happened between 3 am and 4 am. Residents of the vicinity have been evacuated, however, the number of casualties is expected to rise.