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Vizag Gas Leak (VISAKHAPATNAM) Explained for UPSC Exam

Vizag Gas Leak Explained for UPSC Exam

While it unclear at the moment whether the deaths are due to direct exposure to styrene gas or one of its byproducts, Visakhapatnam Police Commissioner has maintained that the gas is “non-poisonous” and is only fatal when exposed to longer duration.

Lets know all about this accident:

What is styrene?

It is a flammable liquid that is used in the manufacturing of polystyrene plastics, fiberglass, rubber, and latex. 

Also known as ethenylbenzene, vinylbenzene, and phenylethene, Styrene is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5CH=CH2. This derivative of benzene is a colorless oily liquid although aged samples can appear yellowish. The compound evaporates easily and has a sweet smell, although high concentrations have a less pleasant odor.

Styrene is used to make:

  • Insulation
  • Pipes 
  • Automobile parts
  • Printing cartridges and copy machine toner
  • Food containers
  • Packaging
  • Carpet backing
  • Luggage
  • Shoes
  • Toys
  • Floor waxes and polishes

Cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust contain styrene.

What happens when exposed to styrene?


  • Irritation to the eyes, skin, and nose
  • Gastrointestinal effects
  • Respiratory effects


  • Central nervous system and kidney effects
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Hearing loss
  • Balance and concentration problems
  • Cancer

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include headache, hearing loss, fatigue, weakness, difficulty in concentrating etc.

What caused the leak?

A statement from LG Polymers said that stagnation and changes in temperature inside the storage tank could have resulted in auto polymerization and could have caused vapourisation.

What was Bhopal Gas Tragedy ?

It occurred on the cold wintry night in the early hours of 3 December, 1984. 

At around midnight, the chemical reaction started in the Union Carbide (India) Limited factory that culminated in the leakage of deadly Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) gas from one of the tanks of the factory. As a result, a cloud of gas gradually started descending and enveloping the city in its lethal folds. And the city and lakes turned into a gas chamber.

In the tragedy around 3000 lives of innocent people were lost and thousands and thousands of people were physically impaired or affected in several forms.

What is Methyl isocyanate?

Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) is a chemical that is used in the manufacture of polyurethane foam, pesticides, and plastics.

It is handled in liquid form which can be easily burned and explosive. It evaporates quickly in the air and has a strong odour. Its molecular formula is CH3NCO or C2H3NO and its molecular weight is approx. 57.05 g/mol.

It is used in the production of pesticides, polyurethane foam, and plastics.


Visakhapatnam is a coastal, port city, often called “The Jewel of the East Coast”, situated in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, located on the eastern shore of India, nestled among the hills of the Eastern Ghats and facing the Bay of Bengal to the east.

Along the shore lies a series of salt and sandy swamps. The coast line is broken by a number of bald head lands, the important of them being the Dolphin’s Nose which had afforded the establishment of Natural Harbour at Visakhapatnam, Rushikonda(village) Polavaram Rock and the big Narasimha Hill at Bheemunipatnam.

The District has mineral deposits of Bauxite Apatite (Rock Phosphate) Calcite, Crystalline limestone confined to tribal tracts. 

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