a number of weaknesses in the Bayer facility’s emergency response systems. In light of these concerns, the Board requested the National Research Council convene a committee of independent experts to write a report that examines the use and storage of MIC at the Bayer facility, and to evaluate the analyses on alternative production methods for MIC and carbamate pesticides performed by Bayer and the previous owners of the facility.
Following the 2008 accident, Bayer halted MIC production while completing safety modifications, such as reducing onsite inventory of MIC and building underground storage facilities. Then, in 2011—with the National Research Council study already underway—the Environmental Protection Agency cancelled registration of aldicarb, a carbamate pesticide known commercially as TEMIK that is produced using MIC. Shortly afterwards, Bayer announced that production of certain carbamate pesticides was no longer economically viable for the company and would cease at the end of 2012. In the meantime, Bayer intended to finalize modifications to the MIC plant at Institute and restart manufacturing of aldicarb, carbaryl (another carbamate pesticide known commercially as SEVIN), and the intermediatematerials required for their production (including MIC) in mid 2012.
What Is MIC?
MIC (methyl isocyanate) is a volatile, colorless liquid that is extremely flammable, and potentially explosive when mixed with air. MIC reacts with water, giving off heat and producing methylamine and carbon dioxide. The liquid and vapor are toxic when inhaled, ingested, or exposed to the eyes or skin. The release of a cloud of MIC gas caused the Bhopal disaster in 1984, killing close to 3,800 people who lived near the Union Carbide India Limited plant in Bhopal, India.
In February 2011, amid concerns about the safety of restarting MIC processing at the Institute, West Virginia plant, a group of local residents filed suit against Bayer. On March 18, 2011, Bayer announced that it no longer intended to restart production of MIC. In a press release, the company stated that “uncertainty over delays has led the company to the conclusion that a restart of production can no longer be expected in time for the 2011 growing season” (see Box 2).
In response to these developments, the National Research Council report’s authoring committee felt it necessary to change their approach to addressing the tasks they had been given. In particular, it became apparent that a full review of technologies for carbamate pesticide manufacture was less relevant, as the pesticides would no longer be produced at the Institute plant. In addition, it