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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about the gas leak, fifteen years ago, at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India.


CURWOOD: Fifteen years ago this week, tons of lethal gas escaped from the Union Carbide pesticide plant over the city of Bhopal in central India, killing 3,800 people. As residents slept, a disgruntled employee who hoped to spoil a batch of pesticide added some water to a chemical tank. The water touched off a reaction converting the liquid into a gas. The increasing heat and pressure blew open the tank, and the gas engulfed the city below.

Three hundred thousand people were injured in the incident, 11,000 permanently disabled, and an estimated 8,000 have died from long-term effects of the poisoning. The Indian government demanded Union Carbide pay $3 billion in damages, but after five years in Indian and American courts, the company was required to pay only a fraction of that. Union Carbide operated a Bhopal-like plant in Institute, West Virginia. As a result of the Bhopal disaster, the U.S. Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act in 1986. It requires states and localities to have emergency response plans and community notification in the event of any potential harmful chemical spill. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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