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Why we in Europe are less at risk from a chemical gas incident

It was in the news last Thursday, a toxic gas incident at a plant in Mangalore, India led to the tragic deaths of six workers and two stray dogs. More than twenty workers had to go to the hospital after inhaling toxic fumes generated by an illegal dumping of waste chemicals. In this article you will read an account of the events in India, and explanations of European regulations that make transport of chemicals safer in a couple of European countries.


The cause of the Indian disaster

Around 4 a.m. on Thursday, January 6, 2022, the calamity struck the industrial metropolis of Surat in the state of Gujarat. According to the police and a fire official, workers were inside the mill when some chemicals were dumped nearby. According to the Surat Municipal Corporation’s chief fire officer, Basant Pareek, “Chemicals were illegally discharged from a truck into a stream next to the mill, which along with another substance in the water led to a chemical reaction that released dangerous gases. The workers inhaled the fumes and began to feel asphyxiated.”


The tragic aftermath

At least 25 to 26 workers became unconscious after inhaling the toxic fumes from the chemical tanker and were rushed to the nearest hospital. The fire department brought the spill under control by closing the valve of the tanker. This also proved to be an extremely dangerous situation for the firefighters due to the unfamiliarity of the mixed substances. No suspects have yet been arrested in connection with the illegal dumping with fatal consequences. Local residents were also temporarily evacuated.

This incident is reminiscent of India’s history with industrial disasters. India suffered the world’s worst industrial disaster in 1984 when in the city of Bhopal, methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a pesticide plant owned by the U.S. Union Carbide Corporation, killing more than 5,000 people.


European regulations

In Europe, since 2021, all companies are required to include a unique UFI code on the labels of products containing hazardous mixtures. For hazardous products, all parties in the supply chain are required to provide the products with the specific product information. With such a safety data sheet, logistics companies and factories can reduce the risks during transportation. Unfortunately, safety data sheets are not yet used in Asia.