At least 11 people died after a leak in a chemical factory in Andhra Pradesh on Thursday. The toxic gas, Styrene, injured over 1000 people after they inhaled it once it mixed in the air following the leak around 2.30 am.
Following the leak, the area has been vacated and over 250 families have been evacuated. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said that a specialized Chemical, Biological, Radiological (CBRN) team is being flown from Pune to assist the local teams in defusing the situation and that the leaking silos are at its minimum.
What is styrene gas?
The All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) said that Styrene is an alkaline benzene compound which leads to nauseousness upon exposure and affects brain functions.The gas affects the central nervous system, throat, skin, eyes, and some other parts of the body. It is a highly flammable and releases a poisonous gas when burnt. In high exposure, it can lead to a coma.c
The styrene gas is heavier than air and comes down on spraying of water, and remains in the atmosphere for seven to eight hours.
An affected woman on a wheelchair being taken for treatment at King George Hospital after a major chemical gas leakage at LG Polymers industry in RR Venkatapuram village, Visakhapatnam. Photo: PTI
The gas can cause nausea and dizziness when inhaled. The benzene compound is used to make polystyrene plastics, fiberglass, rubber, and latex in its liquid form. It occurs naturally in some fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, and beverages at low levels. It also finds use in making insulation, pipes, automobile parts, printing cartridges and copies machine toner, food containers, packaging material, carpet backing, luggage, shoes, toys, floor waxes, and polishes.
According to Tox Town, a website run by the US National Library of Medicine, styrene is also found in vehicle exhaust, cigarette smoke, and in natural foods like fruits and vegetables.
While short-term exposure to the gas can result in respiratory problems, irritation in the eyes, irritation in the mucous membrane, and gastrointestinal issues. And long-term exposure could drastically affect the central nervous system. The symptoms include headache, hearing loss, fatigue, weakness, difficulty in concentrating, unsteady gait.