‘Inhaling Styrene gas is like lungs getting coat of plastic blocking oxygen’

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BY VENKATACHARI JAGANNATHAN
Chennai, May 7 (IANS)
The Styrene gas, which leaked early on Thursday morning at the LG Polymers plant on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam, is highly carcinogenic and when inhaled, it has the effect similar to a ‘plastic coating’ on the lungs, said Praveen Ramamurthy, professor at the Indian Institute of Science (IISC), Bengaluru.
“Styrene is highly carcinogenic. It is highly flammable and hazardous. Normally, Styrene is used for making thermocol. It is not advisable to inhale it even in small quantities,” Ramamurthy told IANS.
“When inhaled, the effect will be like a coat of plastic on the lungs. When oxygen supply cannot be sent to the brain, people will drop down,” he added.
The professor said that Styrene is first compressed and turned into a liquid; then polymerization takes place which turns it into a solid material.
Ramamurthy, who had earlier worked in a similar factory several years ago, said that the reactor is normally loaded with Styrene. As there was a long period of lockdown, gas would have formed inside the tank.
“At this stage, if the valve is opened, it becomes difficult to close,” Ramamurthy said.
According to him, every factory should have a data sheet or Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) as to the kind of chemicals they use in operations and first aid procedures for various contingencies.
When inhaled, swallowed or absorbed, Styrene affects the central nervous system and causes irritation to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.

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