Public health officials claim plastics burning in industrial fire will have little effect on air quality
A blaze described as the “largest everâ€? to hit the West Midlands poses little danger to public health, according to local air quality officials.
Public Health England (PHE) in the West Midlands responded to fears that the fire at Jayplas recycling depot in Smethwick, involving an estimated 10,000 tonnes of plastics and paper, could have a negative impact on air quality in the area.
PHE West Midlands said it was working closely with the Environment Agency, West Midlands Fire Service and West Midlands Police to handle the incident, which is believed to have been triggered by a Chinese lantern floating on to the site. The fire service was alerted to the blaze on Sunday (June 30) at around 11pm.
The health body confirmed that despite the size of the blaze, members of the public were not at risk from air pollutants.
A PHE West Midlands spokesman said: “Fires which involve large quantities of plastic may give rise to significant quantities of particulates and gaseous irritant compounds.
“The information we have suggests that there are only low density polyethylene (LDPE) materials present at the site.
“When they burn, materials such as these are unlikely to result in dioxins or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).â€?
However, PHE yesterday (July 1) warned people to avoid the large volume of smoke produced by the fire, which could result in respiratory problems. It advised residents and motorists to keep their windows and air vents closed.
The West Midlands Fire Service confirmed less than 5% of recyclable products at the site were still burning this morning (July 2), while 60 firefighters and ten fire engines remained at the scene.
The service called for an urgent review into the use of Chinese ‘sky’ lanterns, which it brands as a hazard to wildlife, pilots and recycling sites, warning: “The risk of further fires can only increase as the lanterns become more popular.â€?