Public health lessons from the Bhopal chemical disaster.

THE 1984 CHEMICAL disaster in Bhopal, India, was first and foremost a terrible human tragedy. For those who were there and even for those at considerable distances who read about it, the reality of 2000 or more persons dead and many tens of thousands poisoned by a toxic cloud is horrifying. However, in its particulars and complexities, Bhopal's chemical disaster can also serve as a case example for almost any discipline taught in a school of public health.

Bhopal tragedy's health effects. A review of methyl isocyanate toxicity.

SIX YEARS AGO, on December 3, 1984, a toxic gas leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, released methyl isocyanate (MIC) and its reaction products. The number of persons "exposed" and "injured" remains uncertain.1 Official estimates from the Indian government place the dead at around 1800.2 Others estimate mortality to have been between 2500 and 5000 and the number of injured to have been up to 200 000.3,4

Children's PTSD reactions one year after a sniper attack at their school.


Fourteen months after a sniper attack at an elementary school, level of exposure to that event remained the primary predictor of ongoing posttraumatic stress reactions in 100 schoolchildren who were followed up. Guilt feelings and knowing the child who was killed were associated with a greater number of symptoms. Grief reactions occurred independent of degree of exposure to the event. The authors discuss the public health implications of these longitudinal findings.

Psychological intervention for victims and helpers after disasters


Disasters can have long term and damaging effects on survivors. In addition, those who are involved in disaster work, such as rescue and medical personnel, may become hidden victims. Different kinds of psychological assistance can be provided but this must be systematic and well organized. Professional help should supplement and facilitate community, personal and social resources rather than supplant them. This paper provides guidelines for providing such help.