In 1984, as if in a nightmare, a cloud of poison gas reached out and snuffed the lives of thousands of people in the sleeping city of Bhopal, India. The residents awoke to a terrible disaster, a chemical explosion whose memory could never be erased. At the center of the tragedy was the Union Carbide pesticide plant, and surrounding the accident were doubts and accusations of negligence and unethical practices. The Disaster
On December 3, 1984, one of the world's worst chemical disasters occurred at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. Forty tons of vaporous methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas exploded, releasing a toxic mixture of MIC, hydrogen cyanide, monomethyl amine, carbon monoxide, and possibly 20 other lethal chemicals into the air. At least 3,000 people died, and estimates of injuries ranged from 20,000 to 300,000 people (Hedges, 2000, para. 3). The people of Bhopal referred to it as "The Devils' Night." In the aftermath, there were 70 funeral pyres 25 bodies high, all burning together. Mass graves overflowed, and babies died in hospitals that reported a death every minute. Animal carcasses were all over, as were the flies and vultures. Leaves on trees shriveled; crops were scorched; milk spoiled; and ponds grew scummy. "Everywhere sounded the wails of grieving relatives, moans of survivors in pain and cries of hungry children" (Lang, 1984, paras. 3-4, 23). It was a tragedy of immeasurable proportions.
The Role of Ethics in the Disaster
Immediately after the disaster, accusations arose about U.S. corporations endangering the Third World "in a callous search for profits" (Lang, 1984, para. 17). Many argued that dangerous chemical plants were being placed in very densely populated areas around the world (Lang, 1984, para. 19). Tragically, the people of Bhopal were unprepared for a chemical disaster (Newton & Dillingham, 2002, pp. 92-93). The Indian government charged Union Carbide and its senior executives with...