INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- Union Carbide Corp. Monday halted production of a deadly gas at its Institute plant after a leakage of the same type of gas at its plant in India killed at least 350 people.
'We are stopping production and distribution of MIC (methyl isocyanate) until after the investigation,' said Union Carbide spokesman Dick Henderson from South Charleston.
'We want to make sure what happened.'
Henderson said Union Carbide safety experts from West Virginia would go to India to help investigate the disaster.
Union Carbide has been making the gas at Institute for 'over 20 years without any major incidents.' He said the plants in India and Institute are the only two places where Carbide produces the gas, methyl isocyanate.
The gas is an ingredient of carbaryl and temik, agricultural pesticides widely used in India to kill a broad range of insects, said Dr. S.K. Mukherjee of the Indian Agricultural Institute in New Delhi.
Made of cynate -- a derivative of phosgen gas and methyalamine - methyl isocyanate reacts with water, or any moist part of the human body such as the eyes, nose, throat lungs, and mucus membranes, he said.
Union Carbide has a 'very sophisticated' alarm system at the Institute plant to detect leaks, Henderson said, adding the system is handled by 'highly trained people.'
Union Carbide 'is aware of the hazards of the material. We deal with it with that kind of respect,' Henderson said.
He said the chemical is used 'all over the country' by other companies.
Along with those killed, more than 12,000 were injured by the cloud of poison gas that drifted over the city of Bhopal, India.
Officials said the death toll in Bhopal, 360 miles southwest of New Delhi, was likely to rise in one of the worst industrial accidents in Indian history.