UPL chemical disaster: A gaping legal loophole or jaw-dropping negligence?


The agro-chemical giant UPL seemingly sidestepped crucial regulatory defences against environmental and health hazards at its warehouse in Durban – something for which residents, wetlands, rivers and beaches have paid the price since the facility was set alight on 12 July during civil unrest.

One immediate consequence was that firefighters called on to extinguish the blaze – in the middle of widespread chaos – were unaware they were walking into a hazardous dangerous chemical fire, which put their lives at risk and hampered firefighting efforts.

The contents of the warehouse were largely kept secret until amaBhungane revealed an inventory detailing the massive quantities of extremely dangerous materials stored there.

Among the chemicals stored were several banned in other countries, including at least 26 000kg of Masta 900, an insecticide containing the “very potent neurotoxin” methomyl, which is banned in India, where UPL is headquartered, and for which “contact with skin, inhalation of dust or spray, or swallowing may be fatal”.

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~sNews24, 20 August 2021