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Japanese City Warns Locals About Loose Cat That Dipped Into Toxic Chemicals At Factory

Authorities in Japan are warning locals to watch out for any cat that “seems abnormal.”

The public health warning arrived earlier this week after a feline was captured on security cameras Sunday scampering out of the Nomura Plating factory in Fukuyama, leaving a yellow-brown trail of paw prints leading away from a large container of toxic chemicals.

City health officials reportedly advised local primary schools to instruct students not to approach any cats that appear ill. Regional newspaper Asahi Shimbun cautioned readers not to touch any cat “that seems abnormal” and to contact police if they encounter one, according to an online translation.

While this toxic chemical incident might sound like the beginnings of a comic book villain, a spokesperson for the factory told Agence France-Presse that they “immediately alerted the police,” Fukuyama city officials “and neighbors near our factory” about the matter.

“The incident woke us up to the need to take measures to prevent small animals like cats from sneaking in, which is something we had never anticipated before,” the Nomura Plating representative, who wished to remain nameless, continued.

The cat had reportedly dipped into an 11-foot-tall tank of hexavalent chromium,  a carcinogenic chemical that is used in paint and plastics. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration warns it can cause respiratory problems, lung cancer and blindness.

The escaped cat has yet to be found, though officials aren't certain whether it's even still alive.
The escaped cat has yet to be found, though officials aren't certain whether it's even still alive. Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

The hazardous solution was kept in a tank that was reportedly filled to about 70% of its capacity, and the sheet that was covering it was found turned over. Surveillance footage confirmed the culprit was a cat, and that it escaped the tank. The cat has yet to be found.

Hexavalent chromium is perhaps best known as the source of the contamination problem in “Erin Brockovich” (2000), which was inspired by a real-life incident in Hinkley, California, that spanned decades and contributed to hundreds of local cancer diagnoses.

Factory workers are required to wear personal protective equipment, such as rubber gloves and masks, while handling the plating solution, as even slight initial exposure in humans can cause eye damage, perforated eardrums and harm to the kidneys and liver.

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