A memorial commemorates victims of the 1984 Bhopal disaster, in which a pesticide plant leaked toxic gases that poisoned more than 500,000 people. More than 3,000 died, and thousands more suffered injuries such as blindness and severe asthma.

Photograph by Simone.lippi, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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  • On December 3, 1984, almost 4,000 people died in Bhopal, India, after breathing toxic chemicals leaked from a pesticide plant. More than 500,000 people were injured, many permanently disabled by impairments such as blindness and severe asthma. The overnight gas leak is sometimes described as the worst industrial accident in history.
     
    The plant was operated by Union Carbide and jointly owned by American and Indian investors. For years prior to the disaster, the plant had a documented history of gas leaks and health warnings from both American and local authorities. An investigation after the disaster uncovered poor safety and maintenance procedures.
     
    Union Carbide settled a lawsuit with the victims for $470 million, and several top Indian executives were charged with “death by negligence.” These executives were eventually fined and sentenced to two years in prison.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    asthma Noun

    disease that makes it difficult to breathe.

    disabled Adjective

    person who has a physical condition that limits one or more major life activities.

    industrial Adjective

    having to do with factories or mechanical production.

    injure Verb

    to hurt or cause harm.

    pesticide Noun

    natural or manufactured substance used to kill organisms that threaten agriculture or are undesirable. Pesticides can be fungicides (which kill harmful fungi), insecticides (which kill harmful insects), herbicides (which kill harmful plants), or rodenticides (which kill harmful rodents.)

    toxic Adjective

    poisonous.