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Two die after toxic gas leaks into Ishikawa school cafeteria

24 Comments

An employee at Nakashima Elementary School in southern Ishikawa Prefecture discovered two men collapsed on the floor where they were working near machinery in the school cafeteria at around 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, police said. The two had already gone into cardiac arrest, and were confirmed dead soon after their arrival at a nearby hospital.

In the room, authorities detected what is believed to be sulfuric gas, which they suspect leaked out and poisoned the two men while they were performing maintenance. Police are currently working to investigate how the accident occurred because there were no chemical experiments being performed at the school at that time.

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24 Comments
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What the hell kind of machinery in a school cafeteria, of all places, contains sulferic freakin' **acid**?!

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"What the hell?!" was also my initial reaction. How on earth did that happen?

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I think by Sulfuric gas they mean Sulfur Dioxide, which can come from a variety of sources and is very toxic. A sewage leak could cause this.

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Sulfur dioxide also stinks, so it should be easily detected. I wonder if the is an onsen nearby.

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A sewage leak could cause this.

Remind me not to eat at this cafeteria. All rather Austin Powers really, coffee with a nutty flavor and all that.

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I don't think anybody calls that thing sulfuric gas. and I'm into the chemistry business. If it's sulfur dioxide, it's actually not that toxic, that means that a serious amount must have leaked to kill those people. the question is: where did it leak from?

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"the question is: where did it leak from?"

Well, it happened near machinery in the cafeteria, right? For cooling maybe?

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Another fine example of Japanese job safety!

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"Police are currently working to investigate how the accident occurred because there were no chemical experiments being performed at the school at that time."

Perhaps they were being performed ON the school?

Seriously, though, it's a sad fact that public schools in Japan are treated worse, in terms of structure, funding, and upkeep, than abandoned factories. Most wouldn't stand a major earthquake (China, anyone?), lack heating and ventilaion systems (not to mention 'cooling'), and are so dirty that it's utterly shocking they exist in Japan. But hey, that's the public system for you. That this happened in a public school lunch room (cafeteria) should be no surprise, and no one will be held accountable.

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Any gas can be toxic or asphyxiate in large enough concentrations, even oxygen can be toxic. Ammonia from refrigeration units used to be a concern before they changed it to other refrigerants. They could have been mixing cleaning agents, the possibilities are numerous and the reported poison may not be the actual gas. Japan, safety last.

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Thank the gods this did not happen while school was in session! Many innocent children may have also been killed or hurt by this awful incident! RIP 2 dead Ishikawa dudes!

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Another fine example of Japanese job safety!

Why is it that whenever something tragic happens in Japan ... someone, somewhere will turn it into an excuse to engage in Japan-bashing?

You mean deadly workplace accidents never happen in any other country?

Seriously ... every time I read some tragic news story and then read the Japan Today comments, there's somebody using it as an excuse to trash Japan. If you guys think this is such a bad country, why not just get the hell out and go home?

Moderator: Readers are allowed to express their opinions without being told to go home.

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Seriously ... every time I read some tragic news story and then read the Japan Today comments, there's somebody using it as an excuse to trash Japan. If you guys think this is such a bad country, why not just get the hell out and go home?

Why is it always people like you telling people to return to their countries? Why not add to the discussion instead of trying to end it.

As for the story. To avoid being exposed to dangerous fumes/gases why don't these places install carbon monoxide detectors, or something of that sort?

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JenniferKim: "Why is it that whenever something tragic happens in Japan ... someone, somewhere will turn it into an excuse to engage in Japan-bashing?"

I don't think it happens on EVERY issue, but we are talking specifically here about toxic chemicals in a PUBLIC SCHOOL! Japan is not 'safety last' in all respects, only when it comes to the safety of children in a public setting (where their taxes SHOULD be going). If it's a privately owned space, then it's usually a lot safer.

"You mean deadly workplace accidents never happen in any other country?"

Yep. People at beef slaughterhouses get cut up. People who deal with deadly chemicals molten hot metals sometimes get burned. People who deal with saws and giant presses get maimed/killed by the machines. People in elementary school cafeterias dying from SULFURIC GAS? Not unless there's some extreme neglect going on, and I don't see this kind of case often in other developed countries.

"If you guys think this is such a bad country, why not just get the hell out and go home?"

I don't think it's a bad country at all, but like every other country, since you pointed it out, it has plenty of bad points. The people who are in denial and want to welcome ONLY those who will keep it that way by mollifying and praising the masses are the ones who really need to take another look at things. And by the way, the 'love it or leave' argument really is bottom of the barrel and a sure sign you have nothing to say on the topic (nor can you take criticism).

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Carbon Monoxide detectors would be useful... against carbon monoxide poisoning. This could be something as stupid as them mixing a cleaning solution for the machinery using an ammonia-based solvent (like a glass-cleaner) and a chlorine-based solvent (like a liquid bleach). They combine to release chlorine gas which is deadly. I've always thought this was common knowledge, but I'm constantly surprised at the number of people who are clueless about it.

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I wonder what gas it really was and what those guys were doing that the story implies is related to the incident?

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Were these gentlemen in the cafeteria itself? Or were they in a smaller, more enclosed space adjoining the cafeteria? I can't speak for this cafeteria in particular, but most cafeterias I've been in are large, spacious areas, and it would take a lot of gas to not only fill the space but also to dissipate to safe levels. There's no mention of the employee who found these men suffering any gas-related impairment, so I'm assuming that the gas had had time to subside to tolerable levels. So, if they were found at 7:30am, how long were they there? Did they die the night before? Did they come in very early? What machinery were they working on? Too many questions and unfortunately no answers to be found. Hopefully the cause of this tragedy will be identified and fixed quickly so the families can have closure and parents can feel better about sending their children to this school.

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PS - I don't have a background in chemistry or industrial solvents, but what if someone washing windows with a squeegee and an ammonia-based cleaning solvent dumped the dirty water down the drain on one floor, then someone else dumped some bleach down a sink after using it to... oh, I don't know, sanitize a lab station. Perhaps there was a stopped up pipe somewhere, the two liquids came into contact with each other, and these two men just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Maybe there were some exposed pipes in the vicinity of the machinery where they were performing maintenance? This is all very off-the-cuff, but... seriously, what the heck could have happened?

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"If you guys think this is such a bad country, why not just get the hell out and go home?"

oh dear. nah, I'll stay in Japan, a place I love very much. nothing wrong with pointing out how it could be better though. like enforcing safety more rigorously in public buildings. says Japan Today at the top of the page and that's where I am. I'm not reading about a gas leak in Wisconsin.

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PS - I don't have a background in chemistry or industrial solvents, but what if someone washing windows with a squeegee and an ammonia-based cleaning solvent dumped the dirty water down the drain on one floor, then someone else dumped some bleach down a sink after using it to... oh, I don't know, sanitize a lab station. Perhaps there was a stopped up pipe somewhere, the two liquids came into contact with each other, and these two men just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Maybe there were some exposed pipes in the vicinity of the machinery where they were performing maintenance? This is all very off-the-cuff, but... seriously, what the heck could have happened?

Chemicals dumped down separate drains would mix farther down the drain system, but any gas produced would be prevented from re-entering the room via the trap (the S-shaped bend in all drain pipes) The water that collects in the bend prevents fumes from the sewer backing up into the room.

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"I'm not reading about a gas leak in Wisconsin."

Had it been in Wisconsin either you or somebody else i.e. the vast majority of posters, would be going that extra mile trying to find excuses. That's an undeniable feature of this forum (even a blind person could see it!). Kids died, show some compassion; no need for the "but this would never happen in other advanced countries". Worst things happen on our schools almost daily.

Again, if your countries are so brilliant why have you left? If your countries are so much better than Japan then why don't all of you whingers get 'da hell out of such a dump in a flash?

JenniferKim hit it right on the head. Not happy with somebody else's country? You know the door! That's exactly what I say to foreigners who come to Britain and bitch about the place.

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Carbon Monoxide detectors would be useful... against carbon monoxide poisoning.

Obviously.

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Holy crap! That's like a 15 minute drive from my house!

Adding some nice conjecture to the conversation, we're in the midst of summer vacation when schools have their maintenance and improvement work done. They may have been working on some equiment in the cafeteria (likely not a place that students eat since they usually eat in their classrooms, but the place that the lunches are actually made).

Really too bad, though...

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"Most wouldn't stand a major earthquake (China, anyone?), "

Uhhmm...in case you didn't know yet......this happened in Japan....not in China.

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