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Bhopal Disaster's Long-Term Effects Subject of VOA Special Reports

New studies say people continue to drink contaminated groundwater

Washington, D.C., December 2, 2009 - Twenty-five years after a deadly chemical leak in Bhopal, India, Voice of America (VOA) filed special reports from the city, detailing the long-term effects of the world's worst industrial disaster.

VOA's Steve Herman reported many people in the central Indian city believe certain communities have a high rate of illness, birth defects and mental retardation as a result of poisons in the environment.

Two new studies say many people around Bhopal continue to drink contaminated groundwater a quarter of a century after the gas leak killed at least 8,000 people and poisoned 500,000.

Herman obtained internal documents written by officials from Union Carbide India Limited, an American chemical company, before the December 1984 disaster at its Indian subsidiary in Bhopal.

Three documents, posted along with complete coverage, at, show leakages and overflow of toxic waste at the pesticide plant months – even years – before the fatal leak.

Activists say the documents prove the plant's faulty design along with official negligence helped caused the accident. Union Carbide claimed a disgruntled employee sabotaged the plant. Dow Chemical, which bought Union Carbide in 2001, says its legal liabilities ended in 1989 when Union Carbide paid $470 million to the Indian government.

During a visit to the now-defunct plant, Herman saw mercury and dried chemicals that had oozed out from broken pipes at the plant. He also discovered that hundreds of tons of toxic material and waste are still stored in a shed on the site.

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 125 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages and are intended exclusively for audiences outside of the United States. VOA is the leading U.S. international broadcaster.

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