A fire broke out today at a Bayer CropScience pesticide plant in India. Toxic gases mercaptane and phosphorus tri-chloride leaked from the factory near Ankleshwar. A 27 year old plant engineer was killed. The gases escaped the plant and could be smelled in nearby areas. The reason what caused the fire is still not known.
According to rescue workers the fire occurred in the Ethoprophos plant. The gases leaked for about 90 minutes. Ethoprophos, classified as "extremely toxic" (class 1) by the World Health Organization WHO, is the ingredient of Bayer´s insecticide Mocap. The chemical severely affects the functioning of the nervous system. Ethoprophos causes tremors, nausea and weakness at low exposures, and paralysis and death on exposure to high doses.
Philipp Mimkes from the Coalition against Bayer dangers, which has been monitoring the company for more than 30 years, says: "Bayer is the world market leader for pesticides, many of which account for pollution and poisonings all over the world. Only a few weeks ago we demanded a withdrawal of all WHO class 1 pesticides, among them Ethoprophos". Already in its 1995 Annual Report Bayer promised to "replace products with the Classification 1 of the World Health Organisation with products of lower toxicity". Until today the company failed to keep its promise.
Police speaker M S Shukla said towards the Times of India: "Upon receipt of several complaints, air monitoring was initiated which confirmed that in the morning hour there was a high concentration of gases in air. Due to bad odour many complaints were received of nausea and vomiting. The situation became normal after 9 am onwards."
In August 2008 a storage tank exploded at an American Bayer CropScience plant near Charleston. Two workers lost their lives. The tremors were felt in a radius of more than 10 miles. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), after analyzing the incident, criticized "faulty safety systems, significant shortcomings with the emergency procedures and a lack of employee training". According to a US Congress investigation the region narrowly escaped a catastrophe that could have surpassed the 1984 Bhopal disaster. Congress investigators found that the explosion "came dangerously close" to compromising an MIC storage tank. Had the exploded residue treater hit the MIC tank, "the consequences could have eclipsed the 1984 disaster in India."
Ankleshwar in the State of Gujarat in North-Western India, near Bharuch, is known for its industrial township belonging to G.I.D.C. (Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation), which is one of the biggest industrial townships in Asia.
Today, Ankleshwar has over 5000 big and small chemical plants. These chemical plants produce products such as pesticides, pharmaceuticals, speciality chemicals, and paint.
Source: Press Release by the Coalition against Bayer Dangers (Germany)
Original article published on March 11, 2010
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