China’s pollution-gate

A pharmaceutical company in northern China finally responds to accusations of dangerous hydrogen sulfide gas emissions after seven years of complaints.

Jun 10, 2011
Jessica P. Johnson

HazMat poison gas warningFROM NICKERSONI VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

An antibiotics manufacturer in Harbin, northern China, is the latest company to come under fire from the media and the Chinese government for severe pollution, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.  Even though residents have complained of a rotten egg smell due to hydrogen sulfide gas emissions since 2004, Harbin Pharmaceuticals Group and government officials have done nothing until now.  Hydrogen sulfide is a waste gas released into the air during fermentations to produce the antibiotics penicillin and cephalosporin.  Local media report levels of the toxic gas near the factory to be 1,000 times the legal limit.  Symptoms of exposure can range from minor eye irritation or breathing problems, to fatigue and miscarriage, and can be lethal within minutes in high doses.  The gas is also highly flammable.  A government crackdown on industrial polluters and criticism from the media have prompted Harbin Pharmaceuticals to take action.  The company recently announced that it spent $62 million on clean manufacturing technology and other pollution controls.