Poison in the air

a carcinogenic gas called cokeoven leaked from the gas supply lines of the Durgapur Steel Plant (dsp), West Bengal, in the last week of December, 2000. The leak took place when a fire gutted the benzol scrubber unit of the plant. The Steel Authority of India Limited (sail) owns the plant. The gas supply line developed cracks after the fire broke out, say the plant officials. Cokeoven gas contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons like cyanide, methane, cresol and phenols. Meanwhile, the trade unions have demanded action against the plant authorities. "We did not say anything while the mishap was taking place but we had no idea that it would continue for six days,' says Biswajit Biswas, joint secretary of dsp 's workers union.

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