13 April, 2005:
Commuters Gassed by toxic release from Tanfac
Several commuters, including children travelling by the Chettiarpettai town bus, felt giddy and nauseous after being exposed to the pollution from Tanfac Ltd. Four people vomited. The incident was recorded at 7.45 p.m. by SIPCOT Area Commmunity Environmental Monitors, who visited the site immediately and reported the incident to the District Environmental Engineer of the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board.
According to commuters from Semmankuppam village who were on the bus, Tanfac and its surroundings were shrouded in thick white smoke when their bus stopped opposite the factory to set right some minor mechanical problem. Monitors report a strong sulphurous smell with dense white smoke from Tanfac chimneys that induced a scratchy feeling in the throat, giddiness and a vomiting sensation.
The smell and smoke abated around 9.15 p.m. according to monitors.
Tanfac, a Birla-owned company, is currently under investigation for the death of a contract worker last year after he was exposed to toxic fumes while cleaning an acid tank. The company attempted to cover up the incident and failed to report it to the authorities. Read related story here...
The company stores a large quantity of hazardous chemicals, including Hydrofluoric Acid - a cloud-forming gas like the Bhopal gas (Methyl Iso Cyanide), that is highly toxic and capable of travelling long distances along the ground.