Date: 15 Jul 2013

A retrospective review of cytogenetic studies on methyl isocyanate with special reference to the Bhopal gas tragedy: Is the next generation also at risk?

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Abstract

The world’s worst industrial disaster, at Union Carbide, Bhopal, India, took place on 2–3 December 1984, leading to the leakage of poisonous methyl-isocyanate into the environment, causing thousands of deaths, pregnancy loss and for some, incapacitation for life. More than a quarter of a century later, the Indian Council of Medical Research undertook to redefine the abysmal consequences of the toxic gas exposure on the exposed population. This invigorated the interest of scientific community in the evaluation of the long-term effects, with reference to cytogenetic parameters. The thrust area was identified in terms of genetic disorders, low birth weight, developmental/growth disorders and congenital malformations. Also the impact on epigenetic factors, which may have contributed to variations in the functional expression of genes, was not negated, stimulating intense scientific research on in utero exposure and the progeny of the exposed population. To accomplish this mammoth task, molecular cytogenetic investigations must be undertaken in conjunction with conventional cytogenetics, using techniques such as FISH, Immuno-FISH, SKY and SNP analysis, to build up a cytogenetic database of the surviving population.