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The Leak

Remains of the Union Carbide Plant
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On December 2, 1984, 40 tons of MIC vapor and liquid leaked from the Bhopal plant, causing 2500 deaths, mostly from pulmonary edema, within one week and 200,000 to 600,000 long-term injuries.

Compared to the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, not two years later in April 1986, the Bhopal leak killed more than 2000 more people in the short term and amasses similar long-term complications numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

The American Union Carbide Corporation heard of the incident within a few hours and held several press conferences throughout the next few days. Opinions on the cause of the leak and its long-term implications for India, Union Carbide, and the environment were numerous. Some, as from the UCC desktops, suggested that there was sabotage in Bhopal to cause the leak. However, none were as sobering as an editorial found in the Wall Street Journal on December 10, 1984 suggesting that the leak was just the cost of economic development,

“… of those people killed, half would not have been alive today if it weren't for that plant and the modern health standards made possible by wide use of pesticides.”

Within 12 months of the leak a cohort of victims was collected to study the short and long-term health implications of the MIC exposure. The Indian Council of Medical Research took the lead on the project however has not published on any of the data. However, in 1989 some data was leaked to activists who have made the results public.


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