What is methyl isocyanate?
Methyl isocyanate (MIS) is a chemical used in the manufacture of polyurethane foam, pesticides and plastics. It usually is handled and shipped as a liquid, which is easily burned and explosive. Methyl isocyanate evaporates quickly in the air. It has a strong odor but it can begin to make people sick before the chemical can be smelled. MIS was the chemical released in the Bhopal, India, disaster in 1984 that killed more than 3,800 people.
How can someone come into contact with methyl isocyanate?
A person can come into contact with methyl isocyanate by—
Methyl isocyanate as a weapon: Methyl isocyanate can be an “agent of opportunity.” This means that someone could explode the vehicle of transportation (truck, train) that is being used to ship the chemical, or destroy tanks that store the chemical. Methyl isocyanate would then be released into the air.
Please note: Just because you come into contact with methyl isocyanate does not mean you will get sick from it.
What happens if someone gets sick from methyl isocyanate?
Signs of a poisoning include the following:
The effects of methyl isocyanate will depend on the concentration of exposure and length of time the person is exposed. Exposure to high concentrations could result in severe damage to the lungs and lead to death.
What is the treatment for methyl isocyanate poisoning?
Is there a vaccine for methyl isocyanate poisoning?
No, there is no vaccine for methyl isocyanate poisoning.
What should be done if someone comes into contact with methyl isocyanate?
If you think that you or someone you know may have come into contact with methyl isocyanate, contact the local county health department right away. (Visit http://www.idph.state.il.us/local/alpha.htm for a listing of all county health departments in Illinois or check your local phone book.)
If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of methyl isocyanate poisoning, call your health care provider or the Illinois Poison Center right away. The toll-free number for the poison center is 1-800-222-1222.
Where can one get more information about methyl isocyanate?
U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Illinois Department of Public Health
Illinois Poison Center