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Chemical Leak Sickens 62 in E China

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A chemical leak sickened 62 people Thursday at a pharmaceutical plant in east China's Anhui Province, the local government said Friday.

The victims, all of whom were workers of the Wanbei Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd in Suzhou City, fell ill after inhaling fumes from the highly toxic solid phosgene, also known as triphosgene or BTC, that leaked from a laboratory at around 4:30 PM Thursday, said Zhu Hai, an official in charge of the city government's emergency response office.

Zhu said 37 workers were still being treated in hospital as of Friday afternoon, of whom eight were in critical condition.

He said the provincial health bureau in Hefei had sent a 10-member expert panel to join the rescue work.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

Solid phosgene is a white crystal used widely in the biomedical industry. It is used in the production of pesticide and herbicide, as well as antibiotics and pain-killers.

(Xinhua News Agency January 7, 2011)

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