Henan poisoning affects 12 people

08:33, October 18, 2010      

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Doctors in Henan province said on Sunday that tainted baking soda could be the cause of a poisoning case that has left four members of a family in critical condition.

Twelve members of a Zhongmou county family had been taken to the No 1 Hospital affiliated with Zhengzhou University where they were diagnosed with thallium poisoning on Friday, the local Dahe Daily reported on Saturday.

Liu Qiuhui, one of the doctors, was quoted as saying that, "Thallium poisoning is rare and even rarer for a group of this many people to be poisoned at the same time."

Thallium is highly toxic, water soluble and nearly tasteless and is often used in the electronics industry. It is also used in rat poisons and insecticides and is under strict control in China.

The victims included eight adults, one of them Tao Lishu, 73, and four children. They complained of chest and muscle pains on Sept 29, a day after they had eaten a meal of pork, rice and vegetables.

Another doctor, Sun Tong-wen, told China Daily on Sunday that four of them were still in critical conditions and that the situation for the other eight was not particularly good.

He said doctors were using blood dialysis to help remove the thallium from their blood.

While there was no need for an operation, Sun said, the poisonous metal had entered the liver and brain of some of them, and drugs were being used to reduce the impact.

The treatment is difficult and complicated and could take a long time, he said over the phone.

He went on to say that some soda powder a relative found in the family home might be the source of the poisoning.

Early in the week, the relative had wanted to prepare some porridge for the patients, but it turned black after some baking soda powder was added.

Chinese sometimes add baking soda to porridge to make the rice softer.

Traces of thallium were found in the powder by the Henan Occupational Disease Prevention Research Institute, Sun said.

As far as the doctor could tell, the family had used the powder to make steamed buns several times, which was why they may have been poisoned by an accumulation of the chemical in their blood.

The family said they bought the powder from a small store in the village.

Wang Faming, head of public relations at the Zhongmou Public Security Bureau, said that the investigation was still under way and would give no further details, on Sunday.

He said the police would conduct a door-to-door investigation in the village.

By Chen Xin, China Daily


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