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March 10, 2010

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Chemical leak forces suspension of factory

A FACTORY in Baoshan District was ordered to suspend operations yesterday after a chemical leak on Monday caused panic among residents living nearby.

Officials said yesterday that the company could "face severe punishment" after an investigation is concluded.

The chemical leaked after an old pipe broke, according to an initial investigation. The company, Shanghai Xiangjun Light-Fiber Electronic Material Co Ltd, repaired the damaged pipe and then conducted checks on equipment.

The spilled material was silicon tetrachloride, said Zhang Yimin, an official with the district environmental supervision team.

It's a colorless liquid that will produce chlorine hydride as well as acid fog when exposed to water.

The condition was fulfilled on Monday; it rained. Roads near the factory were engulfed in a fog-like mist after the leak, witnesses said.

People had sore throats and stuffy noses after inhaling chemical-laced air.

Officials with the environmental supervision team, who conducted two checks around the factory for chlorine hydride, said the air quality "is under control" but it still takes time to determine the long-term effect on the health of nearby residents.

Shanghai Environmental Protection Regulation said companies that cause pollution and lead to damage face fines up to 200,000 yuan (US$29,300).


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