On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, a coalition of labor and environmental groups put out a call for safety at U.S. chemical plants. Just 300 of the 6,000+ high-risk chemical sites across the U.S. put more than 100 million Americans at risk if attacked.
The image above was taken on the 19th anniversary of the world's worst industrial disaster, Greenpeace activists and students protest in Mumbai as part of the Global day of action against corporate crimes.
Recently, the House of Representatives approved a compromise chemical security bill (H.R. 2868) that could help prevent Bhopal-like catastrophes at some the highest risk U.S. chemical plants. The Senate will now take up the issue and a blue-green coalition is urging them to pass a stronger bill that would prevent chemical disasters at all of the highest risk chemical plants. More than 280 plants have converted to safer chemical processes since 1999 and have eliminated these risks to over 38 million Americans.
The Bhopal Disaster
Since 1984, 20,000 people lost their lives in Bhopal, India after a chemical gas spill from a pesticide factory. More than 40 tons of methyl isocyante (MIC) gas created a dense cloud over a resident population of more than half a million people.
People woke in their homes to fits of coughing, their lungs filling with fluid. More than 8,000 people were killed in just the first few days following the leak, mainly from cardiac and respiratory arrest.
The chemical factory responsible for this disaster belonged to Union Carbide, which negotiated a settlement with the Indian Government in 1989 for $470 million - a total of only $370 to $533 per victim - a sum too small to pay for most medical bills. In 1987, a Bhopal District Court charged Union Carbide officials, including then CEO Warren Anderson, with culpable homicide, grievous assault and other serious offences. In 1992, a warrant was issued for Anderson's arrest.
But justice has eluded the people of Bhopal for more than 20 years. Dow, since its merger with Union Carbide, refuses to assume these liabilities in India - or clean up the toxic poisons left behind. More than 20,000 people still live in the vicinity of the factory and are exposed to toxic chemicals through groundwater and soil contamination. A whole new generation continues to get sick, from cancer and birth defects to everyday impacts of aches and pains, rashes, fevers, eruptions of boils, headaches, nausea, lack of appetite, dizziness, and constant exhaustion.
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On chemical security legislation, tell the U.S. Senate to pass chemical security legislation that will prevent future Bhopals.