AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Four workers have died and about 30 have fallen ill in south China from suspected glue poisoning that caused severe nerve damage, health authorities and state media said Wednesday.
The victims worked in Guangzhou city in shoe and bag factories with poor ventilation -- most of them illegal -- and started falling ill last year after handling poor quality glue, the Beijing Morning Post said.
According to the report, those still alive but in serious condition are now incontinent and have experienced memory loss, with some unable to remember simple maths such as calculating one plus two. Others are unconscious.
Doctors quoted in the report said their central nervous systems had been damaged, with some of the patients' hands continuously shaking.
Wang Min, an official at the Guangzhou Number 12 People's Hospital where 33 of the workers have been admitted since November, told AFP they had all been poisoned by dichloroethane -- a chemical compound used to make glue.
She said one had since died, another had recovered, and three had been transferred to another hospital.
According to the newspaper report, another three people have died from the same form of poisoning.
"Currently, there are still 28 people being treated in our hospital, including 16 in serious condition, although their lives are out of danger," Wang said.
"The patients all came from small workshops that made shoes, leather products and bags."
The city's work safety administration refused to comment when contacted by AFP.
Most of the factories the victims worked in were operating without a licence, and six people have since been detained for selling low quality glue or illegally storing hazardous chemicals, the report said.
The incident is the latest workplace scandal to hit China, where many factories lack adequate safety standards due to lax implementation of regulations.
Last May, authorities in eastern China detained 74 people and suspended work at hundreds of factories following a lead poisoning scare -- one of several to happen in China in recent years.
Experts blame workplace safety problems on rapid industrialisation that has seen many in the world's second-largest economy chase after quick profits -- often at the expense of the environment and people's health.