How the Bhopal gas tragedy is still affecting thousands
Though the Bhopal gas tragedy took place close to 29 years ago, the city is still experiencing the effects of the gas leak. Around 3700 people died almost immediately following the incident in December 1984. The immediate cause of death was due to choking, circulatory collapse and pulmonary oedema (filling up of fluid in the lungs). Further post mortem reports revealed that people died not only of suffocation but also because the toxins had caused swelling in the brain, leading to disorientation and finally death, due to collapse of the nervous system. Other conditions include degeneration of the liver, and kidneys and rotting of the intestines. The stillbirth rate was 300% and neonatal mortality(death as an infant) was about 200% right after the tragedy.
Years later, the effects of the gas leak are still seen.In the year 2002 a report published by the Fact-Finding Mission on Bhopal found a number of toxins, including mercury, lead, trichlorobenzene, dichloromethane and chloroform in the breast milk of nursing mothers. In 2004 BBC Radio 5 broadcast reported that the area where UCIL had set up the plant, was still contaminated with toxic chemicals including benzene hexachloride and mercury, which were stored in open containers and in some cases spilled into the ground. In 2009 the same body also took samples from a commonly used hand pump situated north of the plant and found that the water contained 1000 times the World Health Organisation’s recommended maximum amount of Carbon tetrachloride, a known carcinogen.
Since then clinical studies have shown that the survivors have still been suffering from debilitating conditions such as pulmonary fibrosis, bronchial asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, recurrent chest infections, keratopathy and corneal opacities. They also showed that the following generations were suffering from respiratory, neurologic, psychiatric and ophthalmic symptoms.
Studies have found that exposure to methyl isocyanate leads to toxicity of the immune system, and alters the DNA of a person, leading to chromosomal instability. Babies born to pregnant woman exposed to MIC in the first trimester of pregnancy, showed symptoms of persistent immune system hyper-responsiveness (responses that are not in line with the amount of irritant present) .There has been a drastic increase in the number of babies born with physical as well as mental deformities. Children are born without arms or legs and are often unable to speak or care for themselves. Doctors in the region say that these deformities are very different from conventional birth defects and therefore very difficult to treat.
With recent news that third generation children of survivors are still showing debilitating deformities, and the funds meant to rehabilitate the victims are warming some politicians’ pockets, it is appalling that the Indian judicial system has not taken enough action against the culprits.