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MHA issues advisory on Visakhapatnam gas leak

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New Delhi, May 7: After 11 people died due to a gas leak at a chemical factory in Andhra Pradesh's Vishakhapatnam, the Union Home Ministry on Thursday issued an advisory for the public about the things to be done and not be done following such an incident.

MHA issues advisory on Visakhapatnam gas leak

Styrene is a colourless, flammable liquid which is used to prepare polystyrene plastics, rubber and fiberglass. It is used in pipes, insulation, automobile parts, etc.

According to the advisory, the exposure of styrene is through ingestion, inhalation or contact (skin). Common symptoms of styrene exposure include irritation to eyes, nose and skin; gastrointestinal and respiratory effects. Its long term exposure may cause central nervous system and kidney-related problems, depression, headache, etc.

The Department of Health and Human Services USA has listed styrene as reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogen.

If someone accidentally swallows styrene, give large quantities of water and do not induce vomiting, the advisory said. In case of contact with styrene, immediately flush eyes or skin with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes while removing contaminated clothing and shoes, it said. For ascertaining the level of styrene in contaminated air, samples of air may be taken from different places of suspected exposure and be subjected to detailed analysis using a special styrene detection device. Gas chromatography may also be used for its qualitative and quantitative estimation, the advisory said.

"When released into the soil or water, styrene is expected to readily biodegrade and evaporate quickly. While released into the air, styrene is expected to be readily degraded by reaction with photo-chemically produced hydroxyl radicals and is expected to have a half-life of less than one day," the advisory said.

People working at the factory should participate in all the capacity building programmes organised by the government/ voluntary organisations / industrial units, it said. They should take part in preparing a disaster management plan and easy access routes.

"Make the family/ neighbours aware of the basic characteristics of various poisonous/ hazardous chemicals and the first aid required to treat them," the advisory said.

To deal with emergency situations, adequate number of personal protective equipment needs to be made available.

In case of a gas leak, the ministry has advised people to evacuate calmly and quickly perpendicular to wind direction through the designated escape route. Keep a wet handkerchief or piece of cloth/ sari on face during evacuation, it said.

It is advised not consume the uncovered food/ water, etc open to the air. Change into fresh clothing after reaching a safe place/ shelter, and wash hands properly. Inform fire and emergency services, police and medical services from a safe location by calling 101, 100 and 108, respectively, the advisory said.

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