By Horace Lu
Chen Xilong, a victim of glue poisoning, answered “four” when asked the answer to one plus two.
At least 4 workers have been killed in a series of glue poisoning cases in Guangzhou.
Chen Xilong (陈锡隆), one of the victims fortunate enough to survive, is suffering from massive memory loss and impaired cognition, while also experiencing great difficulty in speaking, in addition to other symptoms. When asked what one plus two is, he gave the answer “four” and reportedly smiled afterwards.
Dichloroethane, the main ingredient in glue that poisoned Chen and other workers, is known to cause cancer and is hazardous when enters the respiratory tract or alimentary tract, and also when making contact with skin.
Rash of similar incidents
Unfortunately, Chen is not alone. Since last November, at least 37 similar cases of poisioning have been reported, with all of the victims working in leather or shoe factories in Guangzhou, where glue is used in large quantities.
An investigation by China National Radio suggests that poor working conditions, especially poor ventilation in workshops, are to blame for the poisioning of workers. One recently shut down workshop was found to have been clandestinely operating inside a residential building.
Liang Jian (梁坚), another victim, told the CNR that there are only 2 working fans in his 200-square-metre workshop employed to disperse the pungent smell in the air.
The police have confirmed that poor-quality glue and inefficient ventilation caused the poisoning.
Medical treatment and justice for victims
The total medical bill for the poisoned workers has exceeded 1 million RMB (around $160,000 USD), but factory owners are only able to pay less than 30% of the total, since the factories involved are mostly small unlicensed workshops.
Hospitals are now treating these patients free of charge. Doctors say most of the patients being treated are expected to fully recover, though the long term effects of their poisoning won’t become apparent until at least a year later.
Guangzhou authorities have started a crackdown on illegal leather and shoe factories in the area, and have closed a number of unlicensed factories while arresting 6 individuals for selling low quality glue or illegally storing hazardous chemicals.
Meanwhile, Yongshunda (永顺达 or “Forever Good Luck”), the brand of the glue which has claimed 4 lives already, is sitll available in market. An unknown number of illegal workshops located in Guangzhou are still making use of the glue, according to China National Radio.