OMay 7, 2020 at 3 am a major gas leak happened in an LG polymers chemical plant at RR Venkatapuram in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. Hundreds of villagers were admitted to nearby hospitals with breathing, vomiting, and headache problems. The leaked gas is suspected to be styrene.

                                                                                 Adapted from pubchem[3]

                                           Molecular formula: C8H8 or C6H5CHCH2 
                                           Molecular weight: 104.15 g/mol

Styrene is generally stored in refrigeration; it is used to produce polystyrene a component of plastics and resins. Short-term exposure in humans results in mucous membrane and eye irritation, and gastrointestinal effects. Chronic exposure to styrene in humans results in effects on the central nervous system, such as headache, fatigue, weakness, and depression, central nervous system dysfunction, hearing loss, and peripheral neuropathy.

 

         Fig: Effect of Styrene on DNA [2]

There may also be many reproductive and developmental effects of styrene. Additionally, styrene exposure increases risk of leukaemia (blood cancer) and lymphoma.

At least 11 people, including 2 senior citizens and one 8-year-old girl are already dead due to exposure. It is feared that the radius of spread is at least 3 km around the plant. India has a very bad history of gas leaks. In 1984, Bhopal gas tragedies the world’s worst industrial disaster thousands of people died and children are still born with disabilities.

Let’s hope that this situation does not worsen.

Article or content  contributed by – 

Author: Abhishek Kumar, Chief Editor , Biotechticle Research Group(BTRG)

References:

  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) on Styrene. National Center for Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and Development, Washington, DC. 1999.

  2. Polystyrene as Hazardous Household Waste, Trisia A. Farrelly and Ian C. Shaw, April 11th, 2016. DOI: 10.5772/65865

  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Database. Styrene, CID=7501, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Styrene (accessed on May 8, 2020).