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Delhi school gas leak caused by trichloromethyl pyridine: What is this, how it impacts nerves?

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New Delhi: The gas leak in a South Delhi school sent shock waves across the capital and beyond as hundreds of students were taken to different hospitals across the capital. Thankfully there was no loss of life and almost all of the kids have been discharged after treatment.

Reports suggest that more than 300 students from government run Rani Jhansi Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya was taken to hospitals as they complained of breathlessness and vomiting. As the report became public, panicked parents rushed to hospitals. The panic was higher as parents didn’t know as to which school was affected.

Authorities claim that the gas leaked was caused from a container in Pul Pehladpur in Delhi’s Tughlaqabad area on Saturday morning. The school is near the area where the gas leak occurred. The whole school was vacated. An FIR has been registered by police in the case.

Many thought that it was LPG cylinder that had caused the havoc. But later it emerged that it was -trichloromethyl pyridine. It is a rather very dangerous gas. A report says, “Nitrapyrin (2-chloro-6-trichloromethyl pyridine) is a colorless or white crystalline solid with a mildly sweet odor (NIOSH, 2015). Nitrapyrin is a pesticide that functions as a bactericide and nitrification inhibitor, and as a plant growth regulator (Powell and Prosser, 1986; Tice and Carson, 1999; US EPA, 2005c). It is applied along with urea and nitrogen fertilizer to delay the loss of nitrogen from soil. Nitrapyrin delays nitrification by selectively inhibiting Nitrosomonas bacteria, which oxidizes ammonium to nitrite (Tice and Carson, 1999)”.

The report goes on to add, “In 1998, the US EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics High Production Volume Chemicals list recorded an annual production volume of 1.6 to 2.9 million pounds of nitrapyrin (Tice and Carson, 1999). Nitrapyrin is no longer included on the US EPA’s list of high production volume chemicals (US EPA, 2012b). OEHHA was unable to identify current production volume information for nitrapyrin”.

“In California, nitrapyrin is registered for use on corn, wheat, cotton, sorghum, strawberries, and sudangrass (CDPR, 2013b). There are no registered residential uses in California or the US (US EPA, 2005c). Nitrapyrin is applied directly to the soil as a broadcast treatment, band treatment, top dressing treatment, side-dress, or injected into the soil (US EPA, 2005c). It can be applied before, during, or after planting and/or postharvest” it further says.

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