23rd May 2022

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Vizag Gas Leakage

About 500 kg of chemicals were flown from Gujarat and shipped to Visakhapatnam on Thursday to neutralize the impact of the dangerous styrene gas that seeped into the factory in the first hours and left made more than half a dozen lives. Officials of LG Polymers Private Ltd, where the gas leak occurred, asked government officials to organize a chemical called 4-Teritiary Butylcatchol (PTBC). It was available at a Gujarat chemical plant, which would help to contain the reaction in an early stage.

The source of the leak was a styrene factory belonging to the South Korean electronics giant LG, located at RRV Puram, near Gopalapatnam, about 15 kilometers from the coastal city. The first reports indicate that several people from the surrounding villages (RRV Puram, Venkatapuram, BC Colony, Padmapuram and Kamparapalem) fell unconscious on the roads. While six died from prolonged exposure to the gas, two others died while trying to escape the leak.

The source of the leak joined a styrene factory belonging to the South Korean electronics giant LG, located at RRV Puram, near Gopalapatnam, in an environment 15 kilometers from the coastal city. Initial reports indicate that more people from the villages (RRV Puram, Venkatapuram, BC Colony, Padmapuram and Kamparapalem) fell unconscious on the roads. While six died from prolonged exposure to the gas, two others died while trying to escape the leak.

The leak has been plugged and NDRF teams moved into the five affected villages and have started opening the houses to find out if anyone was stranded inside.The spread of the gas depends on wind speeds. So far it is estimated that areas within a five kilometre radius have been affected.  

As medical experts say, Styrene could cause harm to humans by ingestion and inhalation, Irritation in throat can lead to breathing difficulty, wheezing and respiratory distress. It affects the brain leading to headache, nausea, vomiting, unsteadiness and problems in walking. In cases of high exposure, it can lead to coma and an irregular heartbeat. Effect on skin is mild and can also affect eyes, no specific antidote and no treatment to reverse, its impact and the treatment was mostly supportive.

It is recommended during exposure, clothes should be removed, exposed eyes can be washed with water, some should be placed on ventilators, many will need oxygen. Nebulization can also be administered in severe cases, steroids have been administered. It is a disease that is not universally fatal.

What caused the leak?

A statement by LG Polymers said stagnation and temperature changes within the storage tank could have resulted in automatic polymerization and could have caused vaporization. “We are investigating the incident. Currently, there are no leaks as it has been contained. We will observe the facilities for another four hours and give the green light after a thorough inspection, ” an official said.

What is styrene gas?

It is a flammable liquid used in the manufacture of polystyrene, fiberglass, rubber and latex plastics, styrene is also found in vehicle exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, and natural foods like fruits and vegetables.

What happens when anybody exposed to styrene?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), short-term exposure to the substance can cause respiratory problems, eye irritation, irritation of the mucous membranes and gastrointestinal problems. And long-term exposure could significantly affect the central nervous system and cause other related problems, such as peripheral neuropathy. It could also cause cancer and depression in some cases. However, the EPA notes that there is insufficient evidence despite several epidemiological studies indicating that there may be an association between styrene exposure and an increased risk of leukemia and lymphoma.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include headache, hearing loss, fatigue, weakness, difficulty concentrating, etc. Animal studies, according to the EPA, have reported effects on the CNS, liver, kidney and eyes and nasal irritation due to inhalation exposure to styrene.

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