Toxic PVC fire in Canada

Issue 

Toxic PVC fire in Canada

HAMILTON, ONTARIO — A Greenpeace team began sampling for dioxin around Hamilton and its vicinity on July 12 as firefighters assessed the clean-up required following a fire at a PVC plastic (vinyl) plant located in the heart of one of the city's residential areas.

The burning of vinyl, which is the second most common plastic in the world, produces large quantities of dioxin, a known carcinogen also believed to interfere with human reproduction and children's development.

Officials admitted that there were approximately 180 tonnes of vinyl in the plant, most of it discarded car interiors. A US Environmental Protection Agency study on this type of fire suggests that the amount of dioxin produced could be on a level with a year's worth of emissions from the whole of Canadian industry.

"We must discover exactly where the toxic plume of smoke dropped its trail of dioxin", said Dr Matthew Bramley, a Greenpeace expert who is leading the operation.

"Once the dioxin is found, every possible effort must be made to clean it up. Dioxin is an especially dangerous chemical because it will not degrade: the damage caused in these neighbourhoods could last for decades."

Bramley also noted that if the dioxin contamination is not cleaned up, the impact of the disaster will reach far beyond Hamilton, most likely to the north. Long-range atmospheric transport is known to carry particulate matter containing dioxin to Arctic regions. Levels of dioxin found in the tissues of Inuit people are seven to 20 times higher than in southern Canada.