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Health warnings issued over toxic fumes from torched chemicals plant in Durban

21 July 2021 7:30 PM
Tags:
toxic fumes
chemical warehouse
Durban unrest

Afternoon Drive host John Maytham chats to environmental journalist Tony Carnie about the health warnings in Durban.
  • Residents in Durban are concerned about the potential health risks after a chemical warehouse was burned during last week's unrest
  • The UPL Chemical Plant in Cornubia which was set alight housed 1,600 hazardous materials
  • Durban-based enviro journalist Tony Carnie says toxic fumes are still lingering in the air
  • Some of the chemicals also spilled into the water resulting in a fish die-off at various Durban beaches

The UPL chemical plant in Durban is still smouldering days after it was torched in the riots and looting that hit the area in July. Picture: @DA_KZN/Twitter

Durban residents have been warned to take extra health and safety precautions due to toxic chemicals that were released into the air and ocean after a chemicals warehouse was set alight last week.

Arsonists and looters set fire to the massive warehouse owned by pesticide company United Phosphorus Limited (UPL) during the unrest in KwaZulu-Natal.

Durban-based environmental journalist Tony Carnie says the warehouse, which has been smouldering for several days, housed 1,600 hazardous materials.

The fire led to a coastal chemical spill and toxic fumes lingering in the air.

RELATED: VIDEO: Several explosions reported as building near Afrox on fire in Durban

The severity of the pollution is still unknown but Durban residents living near the UPL plant have been advised to wear two damp surgical masks over their mouths and noses.

Carnie says it will be difficult for experts to assess the short-term impact of being exposed to a "cocktail of different chemicals".

"When they all burn at the same time it can give rise to different chemical compounds as they mix and burn", he tells CapeTalk.

The journalist says the possibility that the UPL plant was torched deliberately cannot be ruled out.

"The motives of people setting alight a toxic facility really need to be looked at quite seriously", he adds.

RELATED: Alleged unrest instigator Ngizwe Mchunu to remain in custody for another week

There's been a paucity of information on what exactly was in the warehouse... it had some nasty chemicals in there, pesticides, fumigants, things like 2,4-D.

Tony Carnie, Environmental journalist

These are products designed to kill farm pests but they are obviously very toxic.

Tony Carnie, Environmental journalist

The problem is that, certainly in the air, most of the studies on health impact are being done over a long term.

Tony Carnie, Environmental journalist



21 July 2021 7:30 PM
Tags:
toxic fumes
chemical warehouse
Durban unrest

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