Timeline: Events of 1969-1984

1969: Union Carbide builds factory in Bhopal, the state capital of Madhya Pradesh, India.

1973: First methyl isocyanate (MIC) imported from the USA to Bhopal. This chemical is highly dangerous and difficult to handle and transport. Exposure causes damage to eyes, throat and lungs which can be permanent.

1979: The Bhopal plant starts to manufacture its own MIC.

December 25, 1981: A leak of phosgene gas killed Union Carbide worker Ashraf Khan, and severely injured two others.

January 9, 1982: 25 workers were hospitalized as a result of another leak at the plant.

May 1982: During a “safety week” to address worker grievances, repeated incidents of toxic leakage happened. Workers complained directly to the American officials present. Workers’ requests for hazardous-duty pay were denied.

May 1982: Carbide sent a team of US experts to conduct a routine “business confidential” safety audit at the Bhopal plant. The resulting Tyson report, which was sent to Carbide’s US management, notes: leaking valves; “potential for the release of toxic materials;” 61 hazards, 30 of which were major and 11 of which were in the MIC/phosgene units. Carbide’s response: Nothing was done to address the report’s suggestions; instead remedial measures were then taken at Union Carbide’s identical MIC plant in West Virginia, USA, but not in Bhopal.

1982: Cost cutting continues: staff was reduced at the Bhopal plant by 335 men (the company had already decided to close the plant; nonetheless Carbide saved $1.25 million that year).  The work crew of the MIC unit was halved from 12 to six workers, the maintenance crew from six to two workers.

October 5, 1982: Another leak occurs, requiring hospitalization of hundreds of residents in the surrounding communities.

1982-1984: Local journalist, Rajkumar Keswani, warned of the dangers in series of four published articles.

September 1984: Even the state-of-the-art WV plant was a potential problem – a warning indicated that a “runaway reaction that could cause a catastrophic failure of the storage tanks holding the poisonous [MIC] gas” (internal Carbide memo).

December 2-3, 1984: Poisonous gas leak from Union Carbide’s pesticides factory. First Information Report filed on Dec 4. In three days around 8,000 people die: www.bhopal.net/oldsite/death-toll.html. 

Timeline Index

  1. Timeline: Events of 1969-1984
  2. Timeline: Events of 1984-1989
  3. Timeline: Indian Court Cases 1990-Present
  4. Timeline: Medical History
  5. Timeline: ICJB History
  6. Timeline: Water Contamination & Government Reaction
  7. Timeline: US Court Cases
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