What is styrene gas, how it affects the body and other questions you may have about the Vizag gas leak
The leak has spread in a radius of 3 km around the chemical plant at RR Venkatapuram close to Gopalapatnam.
Today, on 7 May 2020, Visakhapatnam witnessed a major gas leak at LG Polymer chemical plant at 2:30 am. So far, 5,000 people have been affected by the gas and around eight people have been declared dead. The police and army officials are working on the evacuation process in the nearby areas.
The leak has spread in a radius of 3 km around the chemical plant at RR Venkatapuram close to Gopalapatnam. The officials stated that the leaked gas is styrene which can be toxic to the human body. The affected individuals are being given oxygen therapy and the necessary treatment in the nearby hospitals including the King George Hospital in Vishakhapatnam.
What is styrene gas?
Styrene is a colourless liquid which is used for the production of plastic pipes, fibreglass, electrical wiring and resins. Styrene can enter the environment after being released by the manufacturer in the form of a gas or liquid.
How does styrene gas affect the body?
According to scientists, inhalation of styrene gas is the major route of exposure in humans. It has been reported that 60-70% of the inhaled gas is rapidly absorbed by the liver and lung tissues. Styrene can also be found in groundwater and soil samples in low quantities.
The short-term exposure to this gas can lead to irritation in the mucous membrane of the respiratory tract, irritation in the eyes including changes in colour vision, skin irritation, issues in the digestive tract, tiredness, dizziness, delayed reaction time and concentration and balance difficulties.
The animal studies suggest that short-term exposure to styrene gas can cause liver damage, sperm damage and impair learning abilities.
What happens if a person is exposed to styrene gas for a longer time?
According to the studies, the long-term exposure to styrene gas can cause severe brain damage resulting in symptoms like headache, depression, delayed reaction time, reduced memory, slowed visuomotor speed (ability to integrate hands and eyes to complete a task) and reduced intellectual ability.
Other symptoms seen in chronic styrene exposure are hearing loss, weakness or numbness in the hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy), kidney damage and fatigue.
How can you protect yourself from the styrene gas?
In case of a styrene gas leak, one can protect themselves in the following ways:
- Do not step out of your house until emergent.
- Shut the windows. You can switch on the exhaust fans to maintain proper ventilation.
- One can use a half-mask respirator which can filter gas and vapours and can be reused.
- If you do not have a mask, you can cover your mouth and nose with a damp cloth.
- Wear goggles that cover your eyes even from sides to prevent the chemical from entering the eyes.
For more information, read our article on Peripheral Neuropathy.
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