The Bhopal Marathon: Lie & Let Lie

Union Carbide Lies Bhopal Dow


The first part of a truly horrendous story describing how Union Carbide lied about the possible effects of the MIC gas on the people of Bhopal.

As people lay dying Union Carbide’s Director of Health &Safety, Jackson Browning, said that methyl isocyanate (described in UCC’s own safety literature as a ‘poison by inhalation… major residual injury is likely in spite of prompt treatment )(REF 1), was ‘nothing more than a potent tear gas’(2).

After autopsies indicated cyanide poisoning, the cyanide-antidote sodium thiosulphate was tried with good results until, it appears, Union Carbide used its influence to have the treatment stopped(3). Union Carbide said that cyanide was not involved, that MIC caused only temporary damage to eyes and lungs, and the professional witnesses it flew in testified thus(4).

in the hours after the disaster, Bhopal’s medical system was put under a massive strain by the huge numbers of injured streaming to the hospitals. Thousands of people in deep distress, many of them dying, crowded into Hamidia Hospital.

The grounds became an open-air morgue, with bodies laid in rows. Rooms in the hospital were opened to accommodate the bodies and were soon filled with corpses lying piled one on another.

Silence and Lies

Frantic calls from doctors to the factory went unanswered. Four hours into the gas leak a senior magistrate went to the plant and with difficulty elicited that the leaked gas was methyl isocyanate.(5) The factory’s Chief Medical Officer Dr L. S. Loya then commented, ‘The gas that leaked is only an irritant, it is not fatal.’(6) Even as he was uttering these mendacities his own mother was dying of the gas.
What Carbide knew

Union Carbide’s internal safety manual, written in 1974, stated that if inhaled MIC could cause ‘fatal pulmonary oedema’ and that ‘major residual injury is likely in spite of prompt treatment.’ So dangerous was MIC that UCC gave it the maximum rating possible in its internal hazard system.

“Doo-to-doo and la-dee-da”

There had been no warning.

Despite the factory’s proximity to densely populated communities (the distance from the dangerous MIC unit to the first houses of J.P. Nagar was just 400 yards) Union Carbide had never issued any instructions about what to do in the event of an emergency. (7)

Dr Loya was disarmingly candid about why Carbide had hidden the dangers. ‘If I say that I’m carrying a deadly thing in my pocket, people just turn you out of the town. [They] don’t allow you to remain there, even though you aren’t going to use it…Here people are so emotional …if you tell them, then the next day there will be a big procession and do-to-to and la-dee-da, “will you please stop this factory we don’t want it,” even though it is not dangerous. Telling the truth is sometimes a difficult problem in our country.’(8)

RREFERENCES: please see The Bhopal Marathon by following the link below.

You can read the complete Bhopal Marathon publication online here

Girl with candle Bhopal

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