A Supporter’s Plea Over Isocyanates

A petition to ban Dow from importing or using a single drop of isocyanate in India, until they have met their obligations to clean up Union Carbide’s Bhopal site: CLICK

Isocyanates are a family of highly reactive chemicals widely used in the manufacture of flexible and rigid foams, fibres, paints, varnishes, and elastomers, and are increasingly used in the automobile industry. Spray-on polyurethane products containing isocyanates have been developed to protect cement, wood, fibreglass, steel and aluminium. CLICK They are powerful irritants to the mucous membranes of the eyes and gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts and are one of the leading causes of occupational asthma in the UK. CLICK

Methyl isocyanate (MIC) is used to produce carbamate pesticides and is extremely toxic to humans from acute (short-term) exposure. CLICK In Bhopal, a runaway exothermic reaction in an MIC holding tank resulted in tonnes of MIC gas being released exposing hundreds of thousands of people to this deadly chemical. 8-10,000 died within 72 hours with pulmonary oedema being the probable cause of death in most cases, with many further deaths resulting from secondary respiratory infections.

BMA supporter Roy Westall has experience of working with Isocyanates.

Here is his story:

“I was in a Manchester Hospital bed at the time of the Bhopal disaster, having been informed that I had three brain-tumours caused as a result of using Isocyanates (MDI) and was given less than a month to live. I survived, but many people in Bhopal did not.

“I put the petition together when I already knew that Union Carbide had tried to opt out of their legal and moral obligations by selling their Bhopal plant to Dow, who also will not meet the obligations that they have inherited. When I looked on the Internet to see what had happened to Upjohn Polymer, an Isocyanate manufacturer that I had worked with for 5 years, selling their Isocyanates. I was shocked when I read that Dow had recently purchased Upjohn Polymer.

“Then a friend wrote to me letting me know that Dow is planning to expand its Polyurethane (PU) business in India. Polyurethane foams are used to insulate fridges, freezers, cold-stores, refrigerated vehicles, caravans etc.; and in the manufacture of PU foams 50% of the ingredients are Isocyanates. I know this as I spent 15 years with I.C.I. developing PU foams for their customers, and carrying out technical service at their premises in Europe as well as Iran and Saudi Arabia.

“Until Union Carbide and Dow meet their obligations to the people of Dow, they should not be allowed to import or use one drop of Isocyanate into India and I started a campaign via 38 Degrees to bring this about. 38 Degrees are a campaigning organisation and I found them very easy to work with. They obtain their name from the fact that when snow builds up on a mountain and reaches an angle of 38 degrees, the snow becomes an Avalanche. Hence the more signatures the better.”

Image shows a recent leak of chlorine gas from the Dow plant in Plaquemine, Louisiana: CLICK



Girl with candle Bhopal

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