The soybean container at Keamari Port is the likely cause of the toxic gas leak in Karachi, experts at a Karachi University research center said Tuesday.
In a letter to the Karachi commissioner, the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences said it had collected the blood and urine samples of people, and soybean dust from the Keamari area.
“While we are working on this complex bioanalytical problem, we think this may be due to over exposure to soybean dust,” the letter said.
In the light of its investigation, the research center suggested that extreme measures must be taken in unloading soybean containers from now on.
“The symptoms due to exposure to soybean dust (aeroallergens) may be considered as the possible cause,” the letter said.
It said that such epidemics have also been reported in other parts of the world in the past. In 1984, a similar case was reported in Barcelona where 10 people died due to a similar gas leak.
However, the All Pakistan Solvent Extractors’ Association rejected the report, saying that the first patient was hospitalised even before the soybean vessel was unloaded.
“None of the around 400 labourers and ship crew who are involved in the discharge operation has been affected,” the statement said.
It said the vessel contained the highest quality of soybean of US origin and it passed the tests by the US Department of Agriculture.
The vessel was thoroughly inspected by the Department of Plant Protection after it arrived in Pakistan and they found nothing, according to the statement.
Fourteen people have lost their lives after the gas leak in Karachi. Six deaths were reported Monday morning, but more died in the night.
The air in Karachi’s Keamari has toxic levels of hydrogen sulphide and sulphur dioxide, a report by the Global Environmental Lab said Tuesday.
“The levels of all air pollutants were found to be higher than allowable limit when monitored at midnight,” the report said.
Hydrogen sulphide was found to be at 661 parts per billon (ppb) and sulphur dioxide at 1420 ppb.
There should be no hydrogen sulphide in healthy air.
Federal Maritime Minister Ali Zaidi chaired a meeting where it was decided that the ship carrying the soybean, Hercules, will be shifted to Port Qasim, which is further from the city.
A committee, headed by Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani, has been formed to investigate the incident.