Is a Japanese suicide fad coming to the East Bay suburbs?

As the Mayor of Claycord notes in his report on the likely suicide of an 18-year-old Pleasant Hill man Thursday, the manner in which he took his own life—by mixing together chemicals and exposing himself to the toxic fumes—is becoming increasingly common.

According to the Contra Costa Times, Marcus Dominic Flamiano mixed toilet boil cleaner and lime sulfer, a commonly used insecticide, and shut himself in the bathroom of a Golf Club Road apartment. Those chemicals combined produced hydrogen sulfide. That was the odor that emergency responders detected and that prompted a shelter-in-place and the response of hazardous materials specialists.
This method of “detergent suicide” has become the subject of worldwide news reports, and according to this 2008 Wired report, this suicide fad—if you can call it that—apparently originated in Japan. This photo shows Japanese police officers in protective gear entering an apartment in southern Japan in April 2008. A Japanese girl had gassed herself to death by mixing laundry detergent with cleanser, creating fumes that sickened 90 people in her apartment house. As Wired said:

A suicide technique that mixes household chemicals to produce a deadly hydrogen sulfide gas became a grisly fad in Japan last year. Now it’s slowly seeping into the United States over the internet, according to emergency workers, who are alarmed at the potential for innocent causalities.

At least 500 Japanese men, women and children took their lives in the first half of 2008 by following instructions posted on Japanese websites, which describe how to mix bath sulfur with toilet bowl cleaner to create a poisonous gas. One site includes an application to calculate the correct portions of each ingredient based on room volume, along with a PDF download of a ready-made warning sign to alert neighbors and emergency workers
to the deadly hazard.

This report notes instances of “detergent suicides” in the United States in the past year:

–In August 2008, a 23-year-old California man was found dead in his car behind a Pasadena shopping center. The VW Beetle’s doors were locked, the windows rolled up and a warning sign had been posted in one of the windows. Police and firefighters evacuated the shopping crew before a hazmat crew in chemical suits extracted the body and began cleaning up the grisly scene.

–In December 2008, emergency workers in Bartow County, Georgia, found a similar scene: inside a car—along with a body—were two buckets containing a yellow substance. A note on the window said “Caution” and identified the chemical compound by name.

Now, do we add Marcus Dominic Flamiano and his death in Pleasant Hill’s Briarwoods Apartments to this list?

11 thoughts on “Is a Japanese suicide fad coming to the East Bay suburbs?

  1. Oh my gosh. I can't imagine death by chemical like that is pleasant? At least car exhaust you just fall asleep, I bet this hurts, and is awful. Why would anyone do this? Or maybe if I actually wanted to look it up a site would tell me the reason. Maybe it is painless and quick? Geez, I wish we could get to these people before they did this. I'm sorry for this boy's family 😦


  2. From all that I have read and learned as a PhD chemist, please note that this is a terrible way to end a life.

    If you have have seemingly insurmountable problems, please call people you trust or seek others to help. You are too valuable to lose and many people like me love you.


  3. A friend of mine committed suicide just this week. A local WC boy, I'm sure he had no idea what a hole he would leave. Like everyone else that knew him, I wish I had 10 minutes to tell him how much he impacted my life and made it better. I'm sure he had no idea.. Ray, you brought so much to so many, Thanks man! I wish I could have been there for you.



  4. To the writer of this article, you have no idea what kind of person Marcus was. You can contemplate all you like that he did this as a part of some sick fad, but you're so wrong. You're utterly, irrevocably, and pitifully wrong. I tell you that with full confidence.

    He wasn't even the slightest bit shallow enough to do this because of a fad.


  5. The use of the word “fad” seems to me inappropriate to describe any kind of patterns of suicides or even “copycat” suicides.

    When I think of a fad, I think of lighthearted crazes of specific eras. The hula hoop was a fad. Streaking was a fad. I wouldn't call something as tragic as a wave of suicides a fad.


  6. 10:47,

    I'm sorry for your loss. I lost a brother to suicide, and the second-guessing and wondering what you could have done to prevent it is pretty traumatic. I hope time helps ease the loss.

    I imagine that this would be like being executed in a gas chamber.

    I don't know why people choose the methods of suicide that they do, but I know that the process of suicide is less painful for them than living. That's why they do it.

    Terrible, just terrible.


  7. In re to:

    “Anonymous said…
    The name should no have been released.

    October 5, 2009 7:55 PM”

    Newsflash: Deaths are a matter of public record. Sure, very sad for the family. And the truth often hurts. It is never a secret when someone suicides. Maybe a family THINKS it is there little secret. It is not. Rescue workers, the police, and moany more go home and tell spouses, friends etc. what happened. Why even try to pretend? You deal with it.

    Why print his name? Because he died. We print the names of people who die in our society. And the manner of death? Why beat around the bush? Everyone knows anyway.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s