An incident of massive styrene monomer gas poisoning

Chandrasekhar Krishnamurti, Saurabh Dalal, Mounika Jonnavittula


Following a temporary and partial shutdown of the LG polymers factory for nearly 44 days due to the COVID-19 lockdown, routine maintenance of the plant was affected. At around 3 a.m. on 7May 2020, a failure of the refrigeration system and the inhibitor tank attached to the styrene storage tank, resulted in an auto polymerization reaction that caused nearly half of the 1800 tonnes styrene gas stored to leak into the atmosphere. Since the volatile organic compound detection system was defunct, no alert or alarm was raised and, driven by north easterly winds, a cloud of toxic styrene gas spread over a radius of nearly 3 km, affecting five villages in the vicinity. The pungent smell was initially mistaken by the residents as emanating from a fire accident or a COVID-19 sanitization measure in the vicinity. Following initial triage, over 350 victims were hospitalized in various hospitals. 254 symptomatic adults and 64 children were shifted to the Government King George hospital. The main symptoms were burning sensation of eyes, skin and throat, nausea, vomiting, diplopia, muscle twitching, breathlessness and loss of consciousness. Nearly 10,000 residents from five villages were evacuated to relief camps set up in the perimeter and given first aid and food. There were 11 human and 22 animal fatalities in the immediate vicinity. This incident reports the world’s first fatalities due to massive styrene poisoning


Styrene monomer gas, Toxicity, Chemical disaster

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