Vizag gas leak: Spread of poisonous vapours depends on wind speed, officials say

VISAKHAPATNAM: The spread of styrene monomer vapours in the air depends on the wind speed and currently personnel are working to neutralise the air with chemicals such as 4-tert-Butylcatechol (TBC), a senior official of the Department of Factories said on Thursday.

A major leak from a chemical plant of LG Polymers near here in the wee hours impacted villages within a five-km radius, leaving eight people dead and scores of citizens complaining of breathlessness, nausea and other problems.

“The officials are using inhibitors to neutralise the vapours. Slowly the vapours are reducing. It was not arrested fully. They are using neutralisers such as TBC (4-tert-Butylcatechol (TBC),” Joint Chief Inspector of Factories, Visakhapatnam, J Siva Sankar Reddy told PTI.

Exposure to styrene, also known as ethenylbenzene, vinylbenzene can affect the central nervous system (CNS), causing headache, fatigue, weakness, and depression.

It is primarily used in the production of polystyrene plastics and resins, according to experts.

“The spread may be two or three kilometres wide. It depends on the wind speed. We cannot exactly say how many kilometres it has spread to. If the wind flow is heavy, there is a chance that it will spread more in the air,” the official added.

Reddy said the chemical plant was not operational due to the lockdown.

“The company was planning to reopen it soon. There were just a few employees — security guards and maintenance personnel there at the time of the incident,” he said.

According to Reddy, the firm, which has 350 to 400 employees, has all necessary permits to operate.

LG Polymers was established in 1961 as “Hindustan Polymers” for manufacturing Polystyrene and its Co-polymers at Visakhapatnam. It merged with Mc Dowell & Co. Ltd of UB Group in 1978, according to the company’s website.

Taken over by LG Chem (South Korea), Hindustan Polymers was renamed as LG Polymers India Private Limited (LGPI) in July 1997, it said.

Company officials were not available for comment.

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