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March 25, 2011

Methyl Isocynate: Bayer Ends Use Of Infamous Chemical At West Virginia Plant

Jeff Johnson

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Fire In The Valley A CSB safety video depicting events leading to the August 28, 2008, catastrophic explosion and fire at the Bayer CropScience facility in Institute, WV, that fatally injured two workers.
Download Options: Quicktime Video - Windows Video

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Bayer CropScience will stop using methyl isocyanate (MIC) in the production of insecticides at its Institute, W.Va., plant, the firm announced on March 18. For 26 years—ever since the Bhopal, India, accident involving MIC that killed and injured thousands—the company has received pressure from some Institute residents to eliminate use of the intermediate. The Bhopal plant was a sister to the Institute facility.

Bayer had cut back on use and storage of the chemical following a 2008 accident at the plant that killed two workers and took place near an MIC storage tank. The accident renewed concern over the chemical and led to investigations by the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), OSHA, and the National Research Council.

Bayer had intended to phase out MIC next year after making a deal with EPA to end manufacture of aldicarb, a pesticide that requires MIC in its production.

In February, Bayer planned to restart production of MIC to make aldicarb. The new unit was set to run until mid-2012. However, local residents challenged the start-up in court and gained an injunction to temporarily block production. A hearing on the injunction was set for March 21.

Bayer said in a statement that the injunction and investigations had delayed production so much that the company was unlikely to meet production demand for the 2011 growing season.

Also this week, CSB released a safety video detailing the events leading to the 2008 accident.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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