Twenty-seven years ago, toxic leaks from the Union Carbide plant killed about 300 people over one fateful December night in Bhopal. It's estimated that nearly 25,000 people have died so far due to the impact of what is rated as the world's worst such disaster in the pesticides industry. Have we learnt any lessons about managing chemicals ever since? It seems, none, feels Gopal Krishna who has been crusading against the insidiousness of toxic chemicals.
It is estimated that more than 7 million recognised chemicals are in existence worldwide. Of these, approximately 80,000 are in common use. Despite having suffered the world's worst industrial disaster in the chemical pesticides industry in Bhopal, the fact is, in India there is no inventory of chemicals used. At least not in the public domain. In India, chemicals are governed under the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989 which was amended in 2000. Under this rule, the government recognised 429 chemicals as hazardous and toxic in 1989 and revised the number to 684 in 2000. Assuming there is a national list of hazardous chemicals, are the rest of the chemicals safe for human health and environment?
The laws relating to chemicals do not deal with the issue of movement of chemicals through their life cycles. No such study has been done in India but this does not mean that hazardous chemicals and wastes are not flowing into the veins and arteries of the present generation and those who are still in the womb.
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