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Ammonia Leak Kills 15 in China

china flagA liquid ammonia leak from a frozen storage and logistics business in Shanghai sent stinging fumes into a nearby residential area, killing at least 15 people and injuring 25 others, reports China’s Xinhua News Agency.

The Aug. 31 leak was caused by a detached pipe cap, sources within the Shanghai Municipality Information Office told Xinhua. It’s not clear if the deaths were all workers or included others.

Liquid ammonia, a colorless chemical, was used in food refrigeration at Shanghai Weng’s Cold Storage Industrial, a business that imports, exports, stores and processes seafood.

China has a poor record of workplace safety, spurred by by rapid industrialization and weak regulations. In June, explosions and a fire caused by a gas leak killed at least 119 people at a poultry plant. Many workers died due to poorly placed exits and blocked doors, which prevented people from escaping, the New York Times reports.

Deaths and injuries within China’s mining industry are common. Last year, more than 1,300 people died from explosions, mine collapses and floods, The Guardian reports.

Ammonia leaks at industrial sites in the US have resulted in a number of fines over the past couple months.

Last month, Ventura Foods of Ontario, Calif., agreed to pay $157,900 for violations of federal regulations including failing to notify the proper officials immediately following the release of anhydrous ammonia, failure to submit a required Risk Management Plan, and inadequate chemical accident prevention, the EPA said. Agency investigators found the facility had more than 24 ammonia releases since December 2007, with most of the releases caused by flaws in the design and operation of systems.

Star Ice and Fuel, of Fife, Wash., in July agreed to pay $50,805 in federal penalties for failing to immediately report a 450-pound anhydrous ammonia release to local, state, and national emergency responders, in violation of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, according to a settlement with the EPA. The release was caused by a compressor valve leak in the company’s refrigeration system.

Cheese company Sorrento Lactalis was also fined $91,352 in July for violations related to anhydrous ammonia that are intended to prevent chemical accidents, the EPA said.

Photo Credit: peruisay via Flickr

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