Soybean dust seen as cause of 14 deaths in Karachi’s port area

By: News Desk
Published: 01:55 AM, 19 Feb, 2020
Soybean dust seen as cause of 14 deaths in Karachi’s port area
Caption: Paramedics carry a patient hit by a gas leak to hospital in Karachi.–AFP file photo
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Almost two days after a toxic gas started wreaking havoc in Karachi’s Kemari Town, The International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) told the Sindh government on Tuesday that exposure to soybean dust could be the cause of acute breathing problems people were suffering from.

By Tuesday evening, at least 14 people had died in different areas of Kemari and more than 400 had been taken to hospitals for treatment after inhaling toxic gas. The affected residents of the locality had complained of conditions like breathing difficulties, burning sensation in the nose, watery eyes and itching in the throat.

In a letter to Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Ali Shallwani, ICCBS Director Dr Iqbal Choudhary said the lab had examined blood and urine samples of people "exposed to toxic aerosols" and soybean dust samples collected from the port area. He said that ICCBS was still engaged in deciphering the cause of this toxic exposure, but the findings so far suggest that Kemari residents had an "overexposure to soybean dust".

The lab suggested that treating doctors should administer bronchodilators and anti-histamines to affected people and "extreme care" should be taken while unloading soybean containers.

The ICCBS is a research centre at the University of Karachi. The Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research and the Hussain Ebrahim Jamal Research Institute of Chemistry are part of the centre.