17 February, 2005:

Workplace accident: Tantech Worker Injured
M. Jayamurthy, a 35-year old contract worker from Karaikadu, was injured while working at Tantech Chemicals in SIPCOT, Cuddalore. Hired by labour contractor Ganapathy of Karaikadu, Jayamurthy began work at Tantech on 2 February.

On 14 February, at 11.30 a.m., Jayamurthy was shifting a bag full of red-coloured IBAP (Iso Butyl Acetophenone or Ibuprofen) powder from one room to another. Some of the powder fell on his face. Jayamurthy reports that the powder left a cold sensation "like ice" on his face upon contact. There was no immediate effect after that. At 6 p.m. when he washed his face, it started burning. By the time he returned home at night, he had rashes all over his face and neck. On 15 February, 2005, he went to the company again. But his face was swollen. SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors visited Jayamurthy today. Even today, he experienced pins and needles on his face, and reported an itching sensation. The facial swelling was still prominent.

No first aid was administered. Jayamurthy’s labour contractor Ganapathy gave him Rs. 50 on the day of the incident for treatment. On 16 February, he reported the incident to his manager who shifted him from the plant he was working in to another. On 17 February, Jayamurthy was given an additional Rs. 100.

Till date, the incident has not been reported to the Inspector of Factories or the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board by the company.

Jayamurthy is not a regular chemical industry worker. On normal days, he works as a hired hand in agricultural farms. In the industry, he makes Rs. 59 per shift. According to him, he was working 12-hour days and earned a daily wage of Rs. 89 ($2 per day).

Tantech is one of the notorious polluters in SIPCOT. In December, SACEM released the results of an air sample taken downwind of Tantech that revealed the presence of toxic chemicals including carbon disulphide, bromomethane, trichloroethene, 4-methyl 2-pentanone, isopropyl alcohol, acetone, 2-butanone and toluene. Trichloroethene and Bromomethane cause cancers of lung, kidney, stomach and liver in animals. All 8 chemicals cause one or more of the symptoms reported, namely headache, and skin and throat irritation. [See press release 17 December, 2004]

Residents of Eachangadu have also complained frequently about toxic emissions from the factory, particularly at night.