At least 11 people have died as a result of a gas leak in Punjab’s Ludhiana on Sunday. While authorities conduct relief operations and the investigation in the cause of the tragedy is underway, preliminary reports indicate death due to neurotoxicity. (Read here detailed report: Ludhiana gas leak Updates)
“The nature of gas was neuro-toxic,” said Dr Hatinder Kaur, civil surgeon Ludhiana. “As per the medical examination till now the deaths were not caused by suffocation but by the gas’s harmful effect on the nervous system of the victims.”
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What is Neurotoxicity?
Neuro-toxicity occurs when the exposure to natural or manmade toxic substances (neurotoxicants) alters the normal activity of the nervous system that includes brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
Nerve cells, or neurons, communicate with each other through a series of electrical and chemical signals and are at the greatest risk of damage from neurotoxins because of their high metabolic rate.
Neuro-toxic substances can damage nerve cell function by modifying the structure of the cell membrane, which controls the passage of ions into and out of the neuron. As a result, the electrical activity of the neuron may change. Furthermore, neurotoxins can prevent neurotransmitters from being released or taken up by other neurons, thereby preventing their production or release. Neurotransmitters are responsible for signal transmission between neurons.
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Measures to take in the event of a hazardous gas leak
- Cover your mouth and nose with a towel or mask to avoid breathing in the dangerous vapours.
- Move to a safe position uphill and upwind of the source of the gas leak.
- Call the emergency services, provide as much information as possible regarding the location and type of gas leak.
- Wait until emergency personnel have given the all-clear before returning to the area.
- Even if you feel fine, if you have been exposed to a harmful gas, you should seek medical attention soon.
- The protocols may differ depending on the type of gas; follow the advise of the authorities.