With the barest trickle of information seeping beneath the closed-door investigation into the UPL chemical disaster in Durban, the public is still in the dark about health impacts and exposure levels from airborne toxic chemical exposure. But studies on people and animals exposed to several of these chemicals point to significant health problems that could potentially extend several generations into the future.
Viktor Yushchenko was on the point of gaining power as president of Ukraine in 2004 when he became seriously ill and was flown to Austria for specialist treatment. He was poisoned deliberately, possibly by Russian agents.
Medical experts later determined that the poison was a highly toxic chemical known as 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD).
TCDD is a colourless, odourless but highly toxic dioxin, one of several by-products of a wide range of manufacturing and heating processes including smelting, chlorine bleaching of paper pulp and the manufacturing of some herbicides and pesticides.
Yuschenko survived, but was left with a severely disfigured face, with his skin bloated and pockmarked by chloracne (a severe form of acne linked to exposures to dioxins).