Journal of Current Research in Scientific Medicine

: 2021  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 49--50

Vizag styrene gas tragedy: A public health view to prevent such incidents in future

Ariarathinam Newtonraj 
 Department of Community Medicine, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, Puducherry, India

Correspondence Address:
Ariarathinam Newtonraj
Department of Community Medicine, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, Puducherry - 605 014

How to cite this article:
Newtonraj A. Vizag styrene gas tragedy: A public health view to prevent such incidents in future.J Curr Res Sci Med 2021;7:49-50

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Newtonraj A. Vizag styrene gas tragedy: A public health view to prevent such incidents in future. J Curr Res Sci Med [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Jul 1 ];7:49-50
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Dear Sir,

One of the disheartening tragedies that happened in the middle of COVID-19 pandemic was the Vizag Styrene Gas tragedy. In this 12 victims were killed and thousands were hospitalized.[1] This tragedy happened after the leak of styrene gas from an industry in the early hours of May 07, 2020, in a South Indian City named Visakhapatnam (Vizag).[1] Styrene is a monomer, which would be converted to polystyrene (polymer) and is extensively used in the electronic industry, automobiles, etc.[2] This monomer is highly volatile above 20°C, and hence, maintaining of ideal temperature in the storage tank is crucial.[3] Until this tragedy happened and as per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention-Atlanta data, it was believed that this gas was a nonlethal one and did not spread rapidly.[4] Vizag tragedy was believed to have happened due to the failure of temperature sensors and some technical glitches in maintenance, which is believed to have happened because of the COVID-19 lockdown.[1] The similarity between Bhopal gas tragedy and this is that both the plants were nonfunctional for quite some time which led to poor maintenance and the gas leak happened in the early morning.[5],[6],[7] Even though blame games were going on between industry, state, and central government authorities, it is evident that there is a need to improve safety measures by all these stake holders and the government mechanism needs to be streamlined and they have to speed up the safety approvals to support the industry. In general, industries are initially started in the outskirts of the towns, away from people's dwelling, and due to poor town planning and unauthorized buildings; there is always a possibility of illegal encroachment and slum formation adjoining a developing industrial area.

Currently, industrial safety is ensured by safety officers employed at each industry who are trained by Ministry of Labor and Employment, Government of India (MoL and E).[8] These Safety Officers primary duty is to ensure safety of the population related to industry. Apart from this each industry should have an Occupational Health Center (OHCs) which should be manned by a trained medical officer with an additional qualification of Associate Fellow in Industrial Health offered by MoL and E.[8],[9] The main functions of OHC are regular health monitoring, injury prevention, and treatment of already employed workers and to conduct pre-employment health assessment of the new comers.[8]

In general, public health and primary health-care mechanisms are kept away from industries for various reasons and MoL and E and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH and FW) are also not stressing upon this.[6] Because of this, Primary Health Centers (PHCs) and District Hospitals serving the community are usually unaware about handling the special situations such as Bhopal Gas Tragedy or Vizag Styrene Gas Tragedy.[6],[7] One of the possible public health roles in industrial safety and hygiene would be the PHC medical officer doing a risk assessment so that the PHC can be prepared if any major untoward incidences happen in their local community. Another is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which is a fund allocated by the industries for social works to build the confidence in the community.[10] A part of this could be routed through PHCs for the safety and security of the communities living around the industry. In the era of global economic competition and India having the 4th largest economy, industrial growth is inevitable, and in the recent days, India is moving forward with “Make in India” concept.[11] In this situation, it is prudent to consider healthy public policy while erecting industrial cities, which are providing safety approvals by the state and central government in a timely manner and ensuring safety of the industries by repeated inspections, improving safety measures by latest technologies in the industries, proper town planning of industrial area and the adjoining areas and preventing slum formation and illegal encroachments, empowering district hospitals, and adjoining PHC in handling industrial health issues having continuous public health surveillance over the population and making wise use of CSR to the people residing adjoining to the industry.[5],[6],[7],[10]

One more important public health issue emerged in India in the recent time is migrant workers from one state to another state primarily seeking job opportunities.[12] Covid-19 lockdown has surfaced this undermined and unattended public health issue. Most of these workers in unorganized industrial sector or on contract basis are in organized industrial sector.[12] Through CSR industries government can provide better arrangement for their stay by providing dormitories, night stay homes and rented family houses during their stay in other states at a very much subsidized cost. This will prevent many psychosocial and health related issues of the industrial workers and will prevent the formation slums around any industry. This is the time to synchronize industrial health along with public health, so that the proper dissemination of knowledge, along with adequate skill of health-care workers will be supported to the upcoming industrial growth in India. While the prevention of industrial disasters is primarily in the hands of industries; rest of the issues like health of communities around the industries and migrant workers health could be handled by the public health.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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