Sodium cyanide has been found in drainage outlets and in underground pipes at the scene of an explosion at a dangerous chemicals warehouse in the Binhai New Area of Tianjin late Wednesday, reports our Chinese-language sister paper Want Daily.
The death toll from the blast has risen to 85 people, including 21 firefighters, and an additional 721 people were hospitalized, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.
Seven hundred tons of sodium cyanide in sealed containers has also been found at the blast site. There is a risk that the sodium cyanide will turn into hypertoxic materials and vapors if it dissolves in the rain, as it dissolves more easily in water with a low pH value. It is uncertain if still more containers contain the chemical as they were not registered with Tianjin customs.
Officials said that they have discovered hydroxide, hydrogen iodide, sodium sulfide, sodium thiocyanate and sodium cyanide in drainage outlets at the scene of the explosion. Sodium cyanide was also found in groundwater pipes at the scene. The sodium cyanide contained in the water pipes is eight times more concentrated than normal levels, according to the report. The local government said they have blocked the drainage outlets and underground pipes preventing the contaminated water flowing into other pipes supplying residential areas. Local officials will send the contaminated water to sewage treatment plants after the sodium cyanide drains into the water.
An analyst from China's Solid Waste and Chemicals Management Center said that government should cut off local tap water if the sodium cyanide is found in the underground pipes which provide water to local residents.
Beijing has ordered the Weather Modification Office to disperse rainclouds artificially if rain is likely in the city.
The nearest air quality monitoring station is around 10km far away from the blast site in Tianjin, which makes it difficult to get accurate readings of the air quality over the site itself.
Anyone who suspects they are suffering from sodium cyanide poisoning is advised to remain in a ventilated place and remove their clothes.