From a scientific and historical point of view, why did the Bhopal Gas Tragedy take place?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Bhopal Gas Tragedy took place because of a brutal convergence of chemistry and sociology.  From the scientific standpoint, the root of the tragedy could be found in the Methyl-isocyanide (MIC) compoud.  This chemical compoud is a pesticide agent.  It is extremely toxic in its purest form and vaporizes when it interacts with regular water.  The preparation of MIC is usually done in separate areas and kept away from water.  In the night in question, the cleaning of pipes at the factory enabled some of the water to interact with the MIC compound.  It vaporized immediately.  At the same time, with the changing in shift workers who lacked the expertise and experience to recognize the full implications of what was happening, there was a lag in the response time to the chemical reaction.  This enabled the vapors to spread within the plant and outside of it.

The people who inhabited the immediate area around the Bhopal Gas Plant that was owned by Union Carbide were the poorest around.  They lived in makeshift homes and huts and were amongst the first hit in the middle of the night when the chemical explosion and gas burst through the plant.  Those who were immediately impacted were the poor, the homeless, and the destitute.  The "discharge of the massive cloud of MIC gas" impacted the poor and the dispossessed the most.  As "panic gripped man and beast alike," the most dangerous of convergence between science and economics resulted.

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