Styrene Leak Compounds COVID Misery in Vizag

Adding worry to the woes of Coronavirus, Styrene gas began leaking from the LG Polymers industry in Visakhapatnam. People began running helter-skelter while some of them fell unconscious on the roads while seeking help. NGT has slapped a fine of ₹50 crores on LG Polymers.

Crux of the Matter

The Incident
At 3 AM, Styrene gas began leaking from the LG Polymers plant in Venkatapuram region of Visakhapatnam. An area of 3-kilometre radius from the plant was affected. The gas caused breathlessness among locals and nearly 11 people succumbed to asphyxiation. Many who ran for help fell unconscious on roads. Nearly 5,000 are believed to be sick and many in critical condition. Thousands were evacuated from the nearby region by NDRF and SDRF teams.

How Did It Happen?
LG Polymer industry was being restarted after certain restrictions were lifted during the lockdown. Styrene may have stuck on the ceiling of its container. Temperature level below 20°C needs to be maintained via inhibitors to keep Styrene stable. One of the inhibitors may have failed to stabilize the temperature. Therefore, the Styrene accumulated on the ceiling may have evaporated due to high temperature and leaked. Some are skeptical that Styrene cannot spread this far and some other gas may have leaked too. No statement has been issued by the company yet. A probe in the matter is going on.

What Is Styrene?
Styrene (C8H8) is a derivative of Benzene (C6H6). It is generally used to manufacture stable plastic parts, rubber, electronic parts, disposable cups, etc. Its exposure causes respiratory issues, irritation in eyes, skin burn, nausea, unconsciousness. As the exposure was for a short period, the leak won’t have a long-term impact. However, prolonged exposure causes leukaemia, fatigue, affects the central nervous system, etc.

Bhopal Redux?

  • LG Chem Ltd., often referred to as LG Chemical, is the largest Korean chemical company and is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea. It is the 10th largest chemical company in the world by sales in 2017. It was first established as Lucky Chemical Industrial Corporation in 1947, which manufactured cosmetics.
  • The Dow Chemical Company (TDCC) is an American multinational chemical corporation headquartered in Midland, Michigan, United States. The company is among the three largest chemical producers in the world. Dow Chemicals owns Union Carbide Corporation, the chemical company behind the “Bhopal Gas Leak”. In 2018, The Atlantic called the Bhopal gas Tragedy as the “world’s worst industrial disaster.”
  • Visakhapatnam is one of the 100 fastest growing cities in the world, which has a GDP of $43.5 billion. It is the 9th richest city in India.