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AKITA — Seven refinery workers have reportedly been hospitalized with symptoms indicative of severe colds, but according to the Akita Labor Standards Inspection Office, the workers are suffering from gas poisoning stemming from exposure to sulfuric compounds.

The Akita Refinery Co. in Iijima, Akita Prefecture, says that 26 workers were assigned to disassemble and remove a superannuated electric dust collector — a four-day job that began July 15. Since July 17, however, some of the workers have been complaining of sore throats and other symptoms. They were subsequently hospitalized, and one is reportedly in serious condition.

Employees of the refinery said they surmised that sulfuric substances inside of the dust collector’s pipe melted and turned to gas as it was being dismantled. The company refines zinc and produces sulfur.

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