September 27, 2008

Japan: Papers to Be Sent on Ishihara Sangyo Over Poison Gas Production

Text of report in English by Japan's largest news agency Kyodo

Tsu, Japan, Sept. 27 Kyodo - Police are expected to send papers to prosecutors next week on chemical maker Ishihara Sangyo Kaisha Ltd. on suspicion of producing the poisonous gas phosgene without due notice to the government, investigative sources said Saturday.

Papers are likely to be sent on the Osaka-based company and two former officials of its plant in Mie Prefecture on charges of violating a law prohibiting chemical weapons in the first criminal case to be established on suspicion of violating that law, the sources said.

The highly toxic phosgene gas, or carbonyl dichloride, which was used as a chemical weapon during World War I, is one of the materials used for production of agrochemicals and such synthetic resins as polycarbonate and polyurethane.

Ishihara Sangyo allegedly produced about 74 tons of phosgene at the plant in 2006 without reporting it to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in the due period.

Under the law on prohibition of chemical weapons and on regulations of specific chemicals, if the annual production amount of phosgene exceeds 30 tons, the producer is required to report its planned output amount for that year to METI 30 days before the amount exceeds 30 tons.

Ishihara Sangyo has been involved in a series of scandals in the past. It was named as one of the defendants in a 1967 damages suit filed by sufferers of asthma caused by air pollution in Yokkaichi.

In 1980, officials of Ishihara Sangyo were found guilty of discharging highly acidic liquids into Yokkaichi port.

The company was also accused of illegally dumping industrial waste from 2001 to 2005. In 2007, a former deputy manager of the Yokkaichi plant was sentenced to two years in prison for dumping the waste, while the company itself was fined 50 million yen.

Originally published by Kyodo News Service, Tokyo, in English 0507 27 Sep 08.

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