A major gas leak in Andhra Pradeshâ€™s Visakhapatnam has led to at least eight deaths and hundreds of people being hospitalised on Thursday morning. Visuals show scores of individuals on the ground after having fainted in their spots following suspected exposure. Officials say that preliminary reports show that it was styrene or vinyl benzene.
"The leakage was found to be styrene, a compound which had "become air" (evaporated) and leaked," GVMC Commissioner Srijana Gummalla told TNM. Styrene is primarily used in the production of polystyrene plastics, fibreglass, rubber, and latex.
While officials have stated that short-term exposure to the gas itself isnâ€™t fatal, acute exposure to concentrated forms of the gas can have toxic effects, particularly on young children.
At the time of writing, there have been at least eight deaths reported, and two have been attributed to accidents that occurred after individuals inhaled the gas and lost consciousness. One child who was shifted to King George Hospital after inhaling the gas has succumbed, according to a doctor at the hospital.
The gas created is colourless, pure forms of it can range from being odourless to having a mild sweet odour, while manufactured forms are said to have a sharp odour. It can harm the central nervous system in a human body. The Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) has noted that even short-term exposure to a concentrated form of the gas can potentially be fatal for young children.
While the gas is not fatal on a single time exposure, short-term exposure to the gas can cause eye irritation, gastrointestinal effects (such as stomach upset) and can cause irritation of the epithelial lining in various tissues. If this is not tended to, it can cause erosion of the lining of tissues in the body and can cause bleeding.
Long term exposure to styrene has been known to have effects on the nervous system and can cause headache, fatigue, weakness, and depression, CNS dysfunction, hearing loss, and peripheral neuropathy, which means there is numbness in the extremities such as hands and feet.
The gas leak occurred at the LG Polymers chemical plant in the cityâ€™s RR Venkatapuram in the early hours of Thursday at around 2 am. It quickly spread to the neighbouring areas and reached almost upto 4 kms from the plant. Around 500 people are being shifted to King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam for further treatment.