Last modified 9 June 2011.
First published 29 January 2006. Updated 17 June 2010
Kill tally: About 22,000 killed as a result of the world's worst ever industrial incident at Bhopal, India, in December 1984. At least 100,000 more incapacitated by chronic illnesses caused by the incident.
Background: Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) is established in 1934. The company is 60% owned by the United States-based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), one of the largest chemical companies in the world. UCIL reports to Union Carbide Eastern (UCE), a wholly owned subsidiary of UCC based in Hong Kong but incorporated in Delaware, US. UCE in turn reports to the UCC headquarters in, Danbury, Connecticut.
By 1983 UCIL will employ about 9,000 people at 14 plants and produce a diverse range of products including pesticides, chemicals, batteries and industrial carbon.
The lead-up: In 1967 the Indian Government designates the agricultural pesticide Sevin as an "essential insecticide" and asks UCIL to produce the chemical locally.
1969 - UCIL commissions a chemical plant at Bhopal, the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh, in the centre of India. The plant initially formulates pesticides from concentrates imported from the US.
Two adjoining sites totalling 40 hectares are leased for 99 years at a "peppercorn" rent from the Madhya Pradesh Government for the factory. Both sites are located close to pre-existing settlements. A shanty town soon grows right up to the plant fences.
1973 - India amends the Foreign Exchange and Regulation Act to restrict foreign investment in Indian-based companies to 40% unless special circumstances apply.
Achieving self-sufficiency in the production of the "essential insecticide" Sevin is considered to be such a special circumstance and UCC is allowed to retain a controlling interest of 50.99% in UCIL when it agrees to upgrade the formulation plant at Bhopal into a full-scale chemical manufacturing plant using imported technology.
The plant will produce the key intermediary methyl isocyanate (MIC) then react it with the chemical alpha-naphtha to form Sevin. At the time the technique is being used in only one other location in the world, at a UCC chemical plant in Institute, West Virginia, US.
According to UCC's 'Reactive and Hazardous Chemicals Manual', "methyl isocyanate is a recognised poison by inhalation and is intensely irritating to breathe. It causes severe bronchospasm and asthma-like breathing. Major residual injury is likely in spite of prompt treatment."
The chemical reacts violently with water.
While the UCC plant at Institute, West Virginia, only produces and stores small quantities of MIC on an as needs basis, MIC will be stored in bulk at the Bhopal plant in two underground, 57,000 litre tanks, named tank 610 and tank 611. A third tank, 619, is to act as a backup.
On the night of the disaster, tank 610 will contain 41 tonnes of MIC.
According to memo from UCE dated 2 December 1973, "By (Indian) Government requirement all possible work in engineering and construction will be done in India with UCIL assuming an overall responsibility for implementation of the project. To the extent feasible UCC will provide the necessary technology and process design and will review any technology and design developed outside UCC. In addition to responsibility for these activities, UCC has also agreed to start up support and training outlined in the proposal."
A UCIL project proposal of the same date outlines some of the "risks" associated with the technology to be used in project:
"The comparative risk of poor performance and of consequent need for further investment to correct it is considerably higher in the UCIL operation then it would be had proven technology been followed throughout. CO and 1-Naphthol process have not been tried commercially and even the MIC-to-Sevin process, as developed by UCC, has had only a limited trial run. Furthermore, while similar waste streams have been handled elsewhere, this particular combination of materials to be disposed of is new and, accordingly, affords further chance for difficulty. In short, it can be expected that there will be interruptions in operations and delays in reaching capacity or product quality that might have been avoided by adoption of proven technology.
"UCIL finds the business risk in the proposed mode of operation acceptable, however, in view of the desired long term objectives of minimum capital and foreign exchange expenditures. As long as UCIL is diligent in pursuing solutions, it is their feeling any shortfalls can be mitigated by imports. UCC concurs."
The designs for the key manufacturing units are to be sourced directly from UCC, including the plans for three critical safety systems that will fail during the Bhopal disaster - the vent gas scrubber, the flare tower and the water spray system.
According to a UCC memo released in 1986 no design changes are made without the concurrence of UCC engineers in the US.
Safety audits at the Bhopal plant will also be performed by UCC engineers.
1979 - Work begins on the construction of the manufacturing plant.
1980 - The plant is commissioned in February. MIC is now being produced on-site.
1981 - At the end of December a phosgene leak at the plant injures three workers, one of who dies the next day. UCC promises that improvements "will receive close attention by the management committee in New York."
1982 - In January 24 workers at the plant are overcome by a second phosgene leak.
In February a MIC leak affects 18 people.
In May a three-man safety audit team from UCC headquarters in the US finds "a total of 61 hazards, 30 of them major and 11 of them in the dangerous phosgene/methyl isocyanate units," at the Bhopal plant.
Among the major concerns identified by the team are:
"Potentials for release of toxic materials in the phosgene/MIC unit and storage areas, either due to equipment failure, operating problems, or maintenance problems.
"Lack of fixed water spray protection in several areas of the plant. ...
"Deficiencies in safety valve and instrument maintenance program. ...
"Problems created by high personnel turnover at the plant, particularly in operations."
The safety audit also states that "the housekeeping in and around the entire area was found to be poor. The naphthol spillage is difficult to control but the general pile of old and oily drums, old pipe, pools of oil on ground, etc., create unnecessary fire and access problems in the area."
According to UCC all the problems identified in the report are subsequently addressed.
Amnesty International will later find that there was "no evidence of an effective instrument maintenance program" at the plant and that the safety valve testing program was "largely ineffective" with "no proper records (being) maintained of reviews of instruments, valves and alarm systems, etc.."
Amnesty also finds that the plant had no emergency scrubbers to neutralise any MIC leak; there was no computerised monitoring of instruments and processes; the MIC tank cooling system used brine, which is highly reactive with MIC; and there was no emergency plan to inform authorities and nearby communities of an accident.
In August a chemical engineer at Bhopal receives burns to over 30% of his body after coming into contact with liquid MIC. In October a combined MIC, hydrochloric acid and chloroform leak injures three workers in the plant and affects a number of residents in the surrounding neighbourhoods.
1983 - The pressure indicator control, temperature indicator and the level indicator for the MIC storage tanks begin to malfunction. They are still malfunctioning on 2 December 1984.
1984 - In June the refrigeration unit used to cool the MIC tanks is shut down as a cost-cutting measure.
The same month an article titled 'Bhopal: On the brink of a disaster' is published in the Indian newspaper 'Jansatta'.
Staff cutbacks affect the MIC facility. The production crew is cut by half from 12 to six workers. The maintenance crew is reduced from six to two workers. In the control room one operator monitors about 70 panels, indicators and controllers. The period of safety training for workers in the MIC unit is brought down from six months to 15 days.
In August 1984 the general secretary of the Union Carbide Karamchari Sangh (Workers' Union), a union of the Bhopal plant workers, writes to the works manager of the Bhopal plant raising concerns about air and noise pollution and workers' exposure to hazardous substances. "We have complained so many times against the rising pollution of air and noise in different departments of our factory but we are disappointed that ... it is increasing day by day in an uncontrolled manner," the letter says.
On 11 September UCC's safety and health inspectors warn of the potential of a disastrous accident at company's plant at Institute, West Virginia, saying that "a runaway reaction could occur in one of the MIC unit storage tanks and that response to such a situation would not be timely or effective enough to prevent catastrophic failure of the tank."
In October the vent gas scrubber connected to tank 610 at the Bhopal plant begins to malfunction. The caustic flow indicator on the scrubber is also malfunctioning, making it difficult to verify whether the unit is operating or not.
Also in October the flare tower goes out of service when a section of corroded pipe leading to it is removed. On the night of the disaster the pipe has still not been replaced.
In the middle of October the MIC production unit is temporarily shut down because a large amount of the chemical is already in storage in tanks 610 and 611.
On 26 November the position of second shift maintenance supervisor for the MIC unit is abolished.
The incident: In the hours before midnight on 2 December 1984 water enters MIC storage tank 610. A runaway reaction occurs that releases tonnes of toxic, white, MIC gas.
According to UCC, staff at the plant do not realise the magnitude of the gas leak until shortly after midnight on 3 December.
Attempts to control the leak fail due to either the breakdown of safety systems or because the systems are overwhelmed by the amount of the gas released. Tank 610 cannot be cooled and the reaction slowed because the tank's refrigeration system has been taken out of commission as a cost-cutting measure.
The gas is not diverted to a neighbouring tank because a faulty pressure gauge indicates the tank is full when it is really empty.
The gas scrubber connected to the tank is ineffective because it is either faulty or overwhelmed by the volume of gas.
The gas cannot be burnt off through a flare tower because the supply pipe to the tower has been removed and not replaced.
It is now too late and the reaction is too intense to dampen the gas with water.
The gas vents directly to the atmosphere and begins to settle over the surrounding shanty towns and neighbourhoods. The gas will eventually cover an area of about 20 square kilometres.
At 2 a.m. UCIL informs the authorities of the leak. The siren at the plant used to warn the public of an accident is sounded at about the same time. Police are not informed about the type of gas involved until 3 a.m..
Residents have no idea of the best response to the disaster. Instead of remaining indoors they attempt to flee through the toxic fog.
At least 500,000 people will be directly exposed to the gas. About 2,500 will be killed immediately. The gas causes their lungs to ulcerate and swell with fluid. Thousands more will die within the coming days and more than 200,000 will be injured.
In February 1989 the Indian Government will estimate that 3,000 died as a result of the incident; that 30,000 sustained permanent or total disabilities and 20,000 temporary or partial disabilities; and that 2,000 were affected by serious injuries and 50,000 by minor injuries.
In 1990 the Madhya Pradesh State Government will find that 3,828 died as a direct result of the disaster and that several thousand others experienced permanent or partial disabilities.
At 1 December 1999 the Office of the Indian Medical Commissioner will have registered 22,149 fatalities directly attributable to the disaster.
By the end of the year 2000 533,360 compensation payments will have been made for injuries sustained during the disaster. 14,410 compensation payments for deaths due to the disaster will have also been made.
In 2003 the annual report of the Madhya Pradesh Gas Relief and Rehabilitation Department will list 15,248 people as having died as a result of the gas leak. The report will also say that as at October 2003, 554,895 compensation claims for varying degrees of injuries or disability had been medically assessed and approved.
Twenty years after the incident Amnesty International will report that "more than 7,000 people died within days. A further 15,000 died in the following years. Around 100,000 people are suffering chronic and debilitating illnesses for which treatment is largely ineffective."
Among these chronic illness and severe disabilities Amnesty will list eye disease, respiratory disorders, immune system impairment, neuromuscular disorders, neurological disorders, gynaecological disorders, miscarriages, mental health problems, and cancer.
In the immediate aftermath of the leak Bhopal hospitals treat at least 130,000 patients exposed to the gas. Over 44,000 victims are treated elsewhere in the state.
According to a report on the disaster published by the Government of Madhya Pradesh in December 1986, "Within hours all the hospitals of Bhopal were full of poison gas-stricken victims. Doctors, medical students and volunteers worked round the clock but in the absence of any open toxicological information about MIC, only symptomatic treatment could be provided. ... A trail of both short-term and long-term problems ensued. ... No one knew for certain what gases had been released from the Union Carbide facility. ... The Union Carbide management was completely silent on this and did not even say what toxic gases had been released from their facility or what antidotes could help."
The cause: There are two main explanations for how water came to be introduced in tank 610.
One explanation claims that because of an oversight during the unsupervised flushing of pipes in the plant water was unable to drain off safely and instead rose to a relief valve then flowed down through leaking valves into the tank.
However, an investigation by UCC finds that it would have been physically impossible for the water to rise to the height necessary to reach the relief valve. The investigation also finds that there were no abnormal residues of water in the pipes through which the water would have had to flow.
According to the UCC investigation the disaster was the result of a deliberate act of industrial sabotage by a disgruntled employee. The investigation claims that during a shift change beginning at 10:45 p.m. on 2 December the unnamed employee connected a water hose directly to tank 610 through a fitting for the tank's local pressure gauge. The investigation alleges that following the disaster staff at the plant deliberately covered up the sabotage and falsified records.
UCC has never released the name of the alleged saboteur but says it knows who the person is and has passed the information to the Indian Government.
A report by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, and General Workers Unions (ICEF) concludes that "the disaster was caused by insufficient attention to safety in the process design, dangerous operating procedures, lack of proper maintenance, faulty equipment, and deep cuts in manning levels, crew sizes, worker training and skilled supervision."
"The operating and maintenance errors which led to the MIC release were made by management of the Bhopal plant and Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL)," the report says.
"However, responsibility for the disaster also rests with UCIL's parent multinational, the US-based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC). UCC insisted on a process design requiring large MIC storage tanks. ... In addition a 1982 corporate inspection report demonstrates that UCC knew the Bhopal plant had major safety problems. But the company did not take sufficient action to correct them. ...
"The Bhopal disaster was caused by a combination of factors, including the long term storage of MIC in the plant, the potentially undersized vent gas scrubber, the shut-down of the MIC refrigeration units, the use of the backup tank to store contaminated MIC, the company's failure to repair the flare tower, leaking valves, broken gauges, and cuts in manning levels, crew sizes, workers training, and skilled supervision. The accident might have been prevented if UCC had done more to follow up its 1982 safety inspection, or if UCIL or the government had heeded the complaints of unions representing Bhopal workers. The effects of the accident were exacerbated by the company's failure to provide adequate information to its subsidiary, authorities and community residents, the siting of the plant close to residential areas, and UCIL's lack of disaster planning."
The aftermath: Immediately following the disaster the plant site is declared a crime scene, sealed and placed under the control of the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CIB), which will conduct an investigation into the causes of the gas leak.
On 4 December 1984 UCC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Warren M. Anderson travels from the US to India, along with a UCC technical team. On 7 December he is placed under house arrest in Bhopal. He is released on bail of US$2,000 the same day and advised by the Indian Government to leave the country within 24 hours. He flees.
Anderson, eight senior officials from UCC's Indian subsidiary and the subsidiary itself are later charged in India with "culpable homicide amounting to murder." In 1996 the charge is downgraded to "culpable homicide not amounting to murder" and "death by negligence."
The UCC technical team is prevented from conducting a thorough examination of the site by the CIB. UCC investigators will not be given unrestricted access to the plant records for a year nor will they be allowed to interview staff on duty on the night of the disaster.
Work is allowed to continue in the plant in order to process the remaining MIC on site into pesticides. The processing is completed by the end of December. The plant is closed in April 1985.
1985 - In March the Indian Government passes the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster Act. The Act gives the government the exclusive right to represent and act on behalf of victims in any civil litigation in India or elsewhere. It also prevents victims from pursuing individual court claims against UCC for damages or personal injury due to the gas leak.
Following the passage of the Act the Indian Government files a civil suit against UCC in the Federal District Court in New York City.
UCC in turn files a motion to have the Bhopal case dismissed from all US courts.
1986 - In March UCC proposes a settlement amount of US$350 million for victims of the disaster.
In May a US District Court Judge rules on UCC's motion to have the Bhopal case dismissed from US courts, finding that all litigation concerning the disaster should be heard by the Indian legal system. The decision is upheld by the US Court of Appeals in January 1987. The court also rules that UCIL is a separate entity from UCC.
On 5 September the Indian Government files a US$3.3 billion compensation claim against UCC on behalf of all the Bhopal victims. The claim is filed in the Bhopal District Court.
Meanwhile, Warren Anderson retires from UCC.
1987 - On 1 December India's Central Bureau of Investigation files homicide charges against Anderson.
On 17 December the Bhopal District Court orders UCC to pay interim compensation of US$270 million.
1988 - In May India formally charges UCC with criminal wrongdoing. An arrest warrant for Anderson is issued by the Bhopal District Court in November.
In November the Supreme Court of India asks the Indian Government and UCC to reach a settlement on the compensation claim.
1989 - In February the Indian Government accepts a Supreme Court-ordered settlement of US$470 million. UCC contributes $420 million to the payment. The balance is paid by UCIL.
Under the terms of the settlement the payment ends all of UCC's civil liabilities for the disaster. However, the settlement does not apply to liabilities arising from ongoing land and water pollution at the plant site.
The Supreme Court also orders that all criminal proceedings related to the gas release be dropped and that the accused be deemed acquitted.
In April shareholders at UCC's annual general meeting reject a plan to increase compensation to victims of the Bhopal disaster.
Although a settlement has been reached the Indian Government is slow to pass on the compensation funds to the victims of the disaster. In the year 2004 the amount still held by the government is estimated at US$327 million.
In July 2004 the Supreme Court of India orders the government to release the remaining funds. On 26 October 2004 the court endorses a plan for the disbursement of compensation to 572,173 victims. Each victim is to receive about US$550 in addition to the interim relief already received.
When the compensation is finally distributed in 2005 most victims receive about US$1,280 each.
1990 - Activist groups petition the Indian Supreme Court to overturn the settlement agreement. On 12 January the India Government announces it will support the petitions. The government repudiates the original settlement as inadequate and announces that it has returned to the original US$3 billion compensation claim and will attempt to pursue criminal charges against UCC executives.
1991 - In October the Supreme Court rejects the petitions to overturn the settlement agreement and closes legal proceedings in relation to civil liabilities. However, the court lifts the immunity on criminal prosecutions related to the disaster, opening the way for criminal charges to be laid.
In December the chief judicial magistrate in Bhopal issues a proclamation ordering Anderson and UCE to appear in court in February 1992 to face charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder in connection with the gas leak.
1992 - A criminal case is launched by a court in Bhopal against Warren Anderson, eight senior officials from UCC's Indian subsidiary and the subsidiary itself. All the accused refuse to appear before the Indian courts.
In January proclamations are published in 'The Washington Post' directing Anderson to face trial in the Bhopal court.
On 1 February Anderson and his co-accused are declared "fugitives from justice" by the chief judicial magistrate of Bhopal. In March the chief judicial magistrate issues a non-bailable arrest warrant against Anderson. The court also orders the Indian Government to seek the extradition of Anderson from the US.
Meanwhile, UCC announces its intention to sell its 50.99% stake in UCIL.
1993 - The US Supreme Court confirms that Bhopal victims may not sue for damages in US courts.
1994 - In November UCC's 50.99% interest in UCIL is sold to MacLeod Russell (India) Limited of Calcutta. UCIL is renamed Eveready Industries India Limited.
1996 - Tests by the Madhya Pradesh Public Health Engineering Department's State Research Laboratory of ground water from 10 tubewells near the Bhopal site find that the water "is contaminated with bacteria and there is a heavy presence of chemicals."
"The tubewells in these areas were tested five years back and at that time too the results showed chemical contamination," a confidential report by the laboratory states. "Hence, it is established that this pollution is due to chemicals used in the Union Carbide factory that have proven to be extremely harmful for health. Therefore the use of this water for drinking must be stopped immediately."
1997 - The Madhya Pradesh Department of Gas Relief and Rehabilitation announces that about 1,400 people have died as a result of gas-related illnesses during the year.
250 wells in the vicinity of the plant are declared "unfit for drinking" by the Bhopal Municipal Corporation.
1998 - According to UCC, studies by the National Engineering Environmental Research Institute (NEERI) indicate there is no contamination of groundwater around the plant.
Meanwhile, UCIL's leasehold over the plant site is returned to the Madhya Pradesh State Government on 7 July. UCC argues that because of the surrender of the lease it now has no responsibility for the clean-up of the site.
1999 - In November the environmental group Greenpeace International releases a technical analysis of the toxic contaminants at the Bhopal site. The analysis finds "substantial and, in some locations, severe contamination of land and drinking water supplies with heavy metals and persistent organic contaminants both within and surrounding the former UCIL pesticide formulation plant."
Among the 12 toxic contaminants identified by the analysis are mercury and various organochlorine compounds.
Greenpeace concludes that "as a result of the ubiquitous presence of contaminants, the exposure of the communities surrounding the plants to complex mixtures of hazardous chemicals continues on a daily basis."
"Though less acute than the exposure which took place as a result of the 1984 MIC release, long-term chronic exposure to mixtures of toxic synthetic chemicals and heavy metals is also likely to have serious consequences for the health and survival of the local population. This open, but largely undocumented, contamination must be urgently and effectively addressed such that the communities of Bhopal are no longer exposed to this legacy of pollution."
Meanwhile, the Dow Chemical Company agrees to buy Union Carbide for US$11.6 billion.
On 15 November a class action against UCC and Warren Anderson is filed in the Federal Southern District Court of New York. The suit charges UCC and Anderson with grave violations of international law and human rights arising from their "unlawful, reckless and depraved indifference to human life" in perpetrating the disaster. The action is dismissed by the court on 28 August 2000.
On appeal claims regarding contamination of ground water and soil in and around the factory and consequent health damages are directed to the Federal Southern District Court for reconsideration.
2000 - In March it is reported that Anderson has gone into hiding to avoid a summons to appear in the Federal Southern District Court for civil proceedings against him and UCC. According to the report Anderson has vacated his last known address in Florida and UCC officials have declined to help track him down.
2001 - UCC becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical on 6 February.
2002 - On 28 August an application to reduce the criminal charges against Anderson is rejected by the Indian courts.
In November the Federal Southern District Court of New York forces UCC to release internal documents relating to the Bhopal disaster.
Documents from 1989, 1990 and 1995 show that UCC knew by 1989 that Indian analyses claiming there was no chemical contamination at the abandoned plant, including those by NEERI, were suspect and that there might be contamination.
In August Anderson is discovered living in New York State.
2003 - In March the Southern District Court of New York dismisses a civil damages lawsuit brought by Bhopal survivors. The survivors appeal.
On 1 July the Indian Government serves the US Government with extradition papers for Anderson.
2004 - On 17 March a US Appeals Court rules that a request for "remediation" to restore the environmental quality of the Bhopal site brought by plaintiffs from Bhopal against UCC could not be barred by the statute of limitations.
The Appeals Court declares that the Southern District Court should be free to revisit its dismissal of the claim for plant site "remediation" if the governments of India or Madhya Pradesh sought such action.
Subsequently, the governments of India and Madhya Pradesh urge the Southern District Court to order UCC to pay for the clean-up of the plant site and pollution damage.
On 3 December, the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal gas release, a man describing himself as a spokesman for Dow Chemical appears on BBC National TV and claims that Dow accepts full responsibility for the disaster and will provide US$12 billion in reparations. However, the incident is a hoax. Dow quickly states that the man was not a company spokesman and continues to deny responsibility.
On 14 November the BBC reports that the site at Bhopal is contaminated with thousands of tonnes of chemicals, including benzene hexachloride and mercury and that pollution levels in some boreholes and wells is 500 times the legal maximum limit.
Meanwhile, the Indian Government takes the first steps towards cleaning up the Bhopal site; Dow Chemicals is summoned for the first time to appear before an Indian criminal court in Bhopal; and the European Parliament adopts a resolution calling for an independent investigation into the effect of UCC's actions on the people of Bhopal.
2006 - In April, following a hunger strike by Bhopal survivors, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agrees to clean up the Bhopal site, provide fresh drinking water for local people and construct a US$23 million memorial to the victims of the disaster.
2010 - On 7 June the trial of seven living senior officials from UCC's Indian subsidiary finally comes to an end. All seven are found guilty of "death by negligence" and "culpable homicide not amounting to murder" for their role in the Bhopal incident. They face sentences of up to two years in prison and fines of more than US$2,200 each. UCC's Indian subsidiary is also found guilty of the same charge and fined US$11,000. The seven former officials, all of who are Indian, are granted bail pending an appeal.
Present day - More than 20,000 people continue to live in close proximity to the abandoned plant at Bhopal. Hundreds to tonnes of chemical residues and waste materials remain on the site, including Sevin, Sevin tar residue, naphthol tar residue, and hexachlorocyclohexane solids.
UCC continues to refuse to release the name of the saboteur who it alleges caused the disaster.
Criminal prosecutions against UCC, UCE and Warren Anderson are still open and pending in the Indian courts. All the accused remain identified as "absconders" by the Bhopal District Court and the Supreme Court of India.
Comment: According to the Amnesty International report Clouds of Injustice: Bhopal Disaster 20 Years On released to mark the 20th anniversary of the disaster:
"Amnesty International holds companies to account for their actions that affect human rights. In the case of the Bhopal plant, there is a pattern of serious failures by UCC in the years before the accident occurred. UCC decided to bulk store MIC in Bhopal but did not equip the plant with the safety mechanisms to deal with accidents. UCC was aware that some of the technology it transferred was not proven, and entailed operational and safety risks. UCC did not export the same standards of safety in design or operations to Bhopal as it had in place in the USA. In particular, UCC failed to set up any comprehensive emergency plan or system in Bhopal to warn local communities about leaks, even though it had such a plan in place in the USA. As early as 1982, UCC was aware that there were major safety concerns regarding the Bhopal plant. Months before the accident, UCC was warned of the possibility of a reaction similar to the one that caused the eventual leak in Bhopal.
"In its response to the tragedy, UCC withheld information, tried to discredit the victims and attempted to shift responsibility between its various arms. When UCC was taken over by Dow, both companies tried to avoid responsibility."
The 'Report of the ICFTU-ICEF Mission to Study the Causes and Effects of the Methyl Isocyanate Gas Leak at the Union Carbide Pesticide Plant in Bhopal, India' says:
"Fundamentally, however, Union Carbide is no different from other global chemical companies. All have experienced safety and health problems. In fact, a 1981 survey of the eight largest chemical companies in the US ranked Union Carbide first in overall safety and health, based on government inspection statistics. Members of the mission familiar with Union Carbide plants in other countries report them to be generally about as safe as any other chemical plants. Union Carbide Corporation and its Indian subsidiary were certainly responsible for the Bhopal tragedy, but the fault does not lie in any unique characteristic of the company."
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