Methane Fumes Kill


SHANGHAI, China, April 22 - Three people died and two were hospitalised after breathing toxic fumes at a pickle factory in southern China, official media reported today.
Police have detained the factory’s two owners and were investigating the cause of yesterday’s gas leak in the city of Guangzhou, the newspaper Information Daily reported.
The newspaper and China’s official Xinhua News Agency said the deadly gas was believed to be methane.
The Information Daily said the gas rose out of a concrete tank where rutabagas, a type of turnip, were being pickled in salt and vinegar. It described the factory as littered with garbage and stinking of chemicals.
Methane, also known as marsh gas, is produced by rotting vegetable matter or manure. It can be deadly if allowed to concentrate in an enclosed space.
Dangerous and illegal food preparation is a major problem in China. Meat is often injected with liquid to increase its weight and sale price, and spoiled seafood is recycled as filling for dumplings. Mass food poisonings, some deadly, are frequently reported at school canteens and wedding feasts.
Authorities ordered a crackdown last year after scores of children were killed or left severely malnourished by bogus infant formula containing only starch and sugar.
However, weak law enforcement and high demand for cheap food continue to provide incentives for illegal practices.