The equivalent of 125,000 lethal doses of cyanide leaked from a factory in Japan after a snowplough accident, a plant operator said on Wednesday.
At least five tonnes of liquid waste containing sodium cyanide spewed out of a tank after it was hit by a snowplough at a plating factory run by Kurosaka Plating Company in Hanamaki, northern Japan, on Tuesday, a company official said.
One litre of the toxic liquid waste, used to remove nickel plating from surfaces, is enough to kill 25 people, the official said.
The leak occurred when workers were trying to remove piles of snow from the site, which has seen severe winter weather over the last week, and damaged a valve on the tank in which the chemical was stored.
“Fortunately, snow absorbed most of the liquid and we have been able to collect the contaminated snow,” the official said. “The leak has not reached a nearby river and we have not received any reports of impact on people.”
Cyanide in various compounds has been used for suicides and murders, both real and fictional, over the last century.
Ian Fleming’s fictional 00 agents were issued with cyanide capsules for use in the event of capture, although cinematic hero James Bond is said to have thrown his away.
Hydrogen cyanide was used by the Nazis for mass exterminations in some gas chambers during World War II and a number of senior Nazis used the poison to commit suicide.