Trics of the Trade: New Hazmat Threat Comes to the US

A popular means of suicide, is there such a thing? Well apparently there is now.In the first six months of 2008, the press reports that in Japan more than 500 people have killed themselves using hydrogen sulfide created by mixing chemicals commonly...


A popular means of suicide, is there such a thing? Well apparently there is now.

In the first six months of 2008, the press reports that in Japan more than 500 people have killed themselves using hydrogen sulfide created by mixing chemicals commonly available over the counter in supermarkets and drug stores. Japan's government has long battled to contain the country's alarmingly high suicide rate. A total of 32,155 people killed themselves in 2006, giving the country the ninth highest rate in the world.

Suicides first passed the 30,000 mark in 1998, near the height of an economic slump that left many bankrupt, jobless and desperate. The Japanese government has earmarked 22.5 billion yen ($220 million) for anti-suicide programs to help those with depression and other mental conditions. Last year it set a goal of cutting the suicide rate by 20 percent in 10 years through steps such as reducing unemployment, boosting workplace counseling and filtering Web sites that promote this despicable act.

According to official statistics, about a million people die by suicide annually, more than those murdered or killed in war. According to 2005 data, suicides in the U.S. outnumber homicides by nearly two-to-one and ranks as the 11th leading cause of death in the country, ahead of liver disease and Parkinson's disease. According to a 2008 report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Injury Research and Policy, the rate of suicide in the United States is increasing for the first time in a decade. The increase in the overall suicide rate between 1999 and 2005 was due primarily to an increase in suicides among whites aged 40-64, with white middle-aged women experiencing the largest annual increase.

Worldwide suicide rates have increased by 60 percent in the past 50 years, mainly in the developing countries. Most suicides in the world occur in Asia, which is estimated to account for up to 60 percent of all suicides. According to the World Health Organization, China, India and Japan may account for 40 percent of all world suicides.

Many of these incidents have occurred in apartments, private houses and vehicles. Authorities, (you and I), are concerned that it could become "more popular" in the United States as the publicity about these incident spreads.

In fact, in August 2008 the Pasadena, CA, Fire Department responded to a suicide involving Hydrogen Sulfide. The victim, found dead in his car, had mixed a fungicide and a toilet bowl cleaner in a plastic tray creating a bright blue liquid and placed the tray in the back seat of his vehicle. The man that killed himself placed a note on the vehicle warning first responders of the hazard. A subsequent investigation revealed that this person may have been to multiple web sites of Japanese origin that provides information on how to use Hydrogen Sulfide as a tool to commit suicide.

Although this incident is a suicide, it demonstrates the potential for anyone to easily produce the chemical and use it as a weapon in a terrorist attack. The Pasadena incident led to the evacuation of several businesses in the immediate area and left bystanders stranded for as much as five hours while the first responders assessed the scene.

In another incident in Japan, 90 people in an apartment building were reportedly sickened when a teenage girl killed herself using a mixture of household chemicals that produced the Hydrogen Sulfide in the bathroom of her apartment.

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