Topic: Medicine/Toxicology

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Bhopal disaster

Environment Disaster management Medicine Death Occupational Safety and Health India Medicine/Toxicology

The Bhopal disaster, also referred to as the Bhopal gas tragedy, was a gas leak incident on the night of 2–3 December 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. It is considered to be the world's worst industrial disaster. Over 500,000 people were exposed to methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas. The highly toxic substance made its way into and around the small towns located near the plant.

Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259. In 2008, the government of Madhya Pradesh had paid compensation to the family members of 3,787 victims killed in the gas release, and to 574,366 injured victims. A government affidavit in 2006 stated that the leak caused 558,125 injuries, including 38,478 temporary partial injuries and approximately 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries. Others estimate that 8,000 died within two weeks, and another 8,000 or more have since died from gas-related diseases. The cause of the disaster remains under debate. The Indian government and local activists argue that slack management and deferred maintenance created a situation where routine pipe maintenance caused a backflow of water into a MIC tank, triggering the disaster. Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) argues water entered the tank through an act of sabotage.

The owner of the factory, UCIL, was majority owned by UCC, with Indian Government-controlled banks and the Indian public holding a 49.1 percent stake. In 1989, UCC paid $470 million (equivalent to $845 million in 2018) to settle litigation stemming from the disaster. In 1994, UCC sold its stake in UCIL to Eveready Industries India Limited (EIIL), which subsequently merged with McLeod Russel (India) Ltd. Eveready ended clean-up on the site in 1998, when it terminated its 99-year lease and turned over control of the site to the state government of Madhya Pradesh. Dow Chemical Company purchased UCC in 2001, seventeen years after the disaster.

Civil and criminal cases filed in the United States against UCC and Warren Anderson, UCC CEO at the time of the disaster, were dismissed and redirected to Indian courts on multiple occasions between 1986 and 2012, as the US courts focused on UCIL being a standalone entity of India. Civil and criminal cases were also filed in the District Court of Bhopal, India, involving UCC, UCIL and UCC CEO Anderson. In June 2010, seven Indian nationals who were UCIL employees in 1984, including the former UCIL chairman, were convicted in Bhopal of causing death by negligence and sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of about $2,000 each, the maximum punishment allowed by Indian law. All were released on bail shortly after the verdict. An eighth former employee was also convicted, but died before the judgement was passed.

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Grapefruit–drug interactions

Medicine Food and drink Medicine/Toxicology Pharmacology Medicine/Society and Medicine

Some fruit juices and fruits can interact with numerous drugs, in many cases causing adverse effects. The effect was first discovered accidentally, when a test of drug interactions with alcohol used grapefruit juice to hide the taste of the ethanol.

The effect is most studied with grapefruit and grapefruit juice, but similar effects have been observed with certain other citrus fruits. One medical review advises patients to avoid all citrus juices until further research clarifies the risks. Effects have been observed with apple juice, but their clinical significance is not yet known.

One whole grapefruit, or a small glass (200 mL (6.8 US fl oz)) of grapefruit juice, can cause drug overdose toxicity. Fruit consumed three days before the medicine can still have an effect. The relative risks of different types of citrus fruit have not been systematically studied. Affected drugs typically have an auxiliary label saying “Do not take with grapefruit” on the container, and the interaction is elaborated upon in the package insert. People are also advised to ask their physician or pharmacist about drug interactions.

The effects are caused by furanocoumarins (and, to a lesser extent, flavonoids). These chemicals inhibit key drug metabolizing enzymes, such as cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4). CYP3A4 is a metabolizing enzyme for almost 50% of drugs, and is found in the liver and small intestinal epithelial cells. As a result, many drugs are affected. Inhibition of enzymes can have two different effects, depending on whether the drug is either

  1. metabolized by the enzyme to an inactive metabolite, or
  2. activated by the enzyme to an active metabolite.

In the first instance, inhibition of drug-metabolizing enzymes results in elevated concentrations of an active drug in the body, which may cause adverse effects. Conversely, if the medication is a prodrug, it needs to be metabolised to be converted to the active drug. Compromising its metabolism lowers concentrations of the active drug, reducing its therapeutic effect, and risking therapeutic failure.

Low drug concentrations can also be caused when the fruit suppresses drug absorption from the intestine.

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Gutter Oil

Disaster management Medicine China Food and drink Medicine/Toxicology Taiwan

Gutter oil (Chinese: 地沟油; pinyin: dìgōu yóu, or 餿水油; sōushuǐ yóu) is oil which has been recycled from waste oil collected from sources such as restaurant fryers, grease traps, slaughterhouse waste and fatbergs.

Reprocessing of used cooking oil is often very rudimentary; techniques include filtration, boiling, refining, and the removal of some adulterants. It is then packaged and resold as a cheaper alternative to normal cooking oil. Another version of gutter oil uses discarded animal parts, animal fat and skins, internal organs, and expired or otherwise low-quality meat, which is then cooked in large vats in order to extract the oil. Used kitchen oil can be purchased for between $859 and $937 per ton, while the cleaned and refined product can sell for $1,560 per ton. Thus there is great economic incentive to produce and sell gutter oil.

It was estimated in 2011 that up to one in every ten lower-market restaurant meals consumed in China is prepared with recycled oil. As Feng Ping of the China Meat Research Center has said: "The illegal oil shows no difference in appearance and indicators after refining and purification because the law breakers are skillful at coping with the established standards."

Some street vendors and restaurants in China and Taiwan have illegally used recycled oil unfit for human consumption for the purposes of cooking food, leading to a crackdown against such establishments by the Chinese and Taiwanese governments.

Gutter oil is an acceptable raw ingredient for products that are not for human consumption, such as soap, rubber, bio-fuel, and cosmetics.


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