Page last updated at 14:14 GMT, Thursday, 24 April 2008 15:14 UK

Dozens hit by Japan 'suicide gas'

Japan map

A Japanese teenager has committed suicide by mixing common household cleaners, releasing fumes that made dozens of people sick, officials said.

About 100 people in Konan City, in western Japan, fled their homes after smelling the toxic hydrogen sulphide the 14-year-old girl had made.

There has been a spate of similar suicides since details of the technique were posted on the internet.

Japan has one of the developed world's highest suicide rates.

At least 30,000 people have killed themselves every year since 1998, according to national statistics.

Toxic chemical

The unidentified girl in Konan City left a note on the bathroom door of her family's flat saying "poison gas being produced", Japanese media said.

About 90 neighbours went to hospital feeling ill, including the girl's mother, who was out of the flat during the suicide but later returned.

Most people complained of sore throats but none was severely ill, officials said.

Police said the teenager mixed detergent with a liquid cleanser to make hydrogen sulphide. The gas is colourless but smells like rotten eggs and is highly toxic, leading to suffocation or brain damage.

In small doses, it leaves people with sore throats, nausea and irritated eyes.

Japanese authorities have set a goal of cutting the country's high suicide rate, through counselling programmes and blocking websites that offer suicide tips.

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